Abbildungen der Seite

in the character and ways of Him who controls those laws whose power suspends them, that is not reducible, by a why and a wherefore, to the clearness and simplicity of a mathematical solution. With such, faith has 110 province beyond the testimony of man. It is with them, perfectly rational to believe a miracle, however wonderful and mysterious, because the fact of its occurrence is attested by human witnesses ;

but when God speaks of himself, and by the Spirit, or his Son, partially unfolds himself to his creatures, faith, implicit and full in what he utters, is reckoned weak and irrational credulity, and the declaration must be submitted to the crucible of human reason, and refined to its unintelligible phraseology, rendered in a different dress, and accommodated to scholastic terms, before it is fit for belief or. adapted to the vulgar ear.

We profess to walk by faith, but it is a faith in the past, rather than in the present.

We believe that Gud has done certain things; that more than eighteen hundred years ago he made ample provision for the salvation of the human family; perfected the plan, proclaimed the conditions, delivered them to his creatures, and retired into eternity, no more to concern himself with the affairs of our planet, till all shall be called into judgment. The immutability of his counsels is deemed incompatible with the hearing of prayer, and he ceases to be called upon as a present help in the time of need." It is in vain that the numerous and unequivocal instances in God's dealings with the Jews, of a positive and direct interposition on his part in answer to their prayers are referred to: in vain the reference to the repentance and works of the Ninevates, and the consequent salvation of the city-in vain the practice and precepts of the apostles and the example of our Saviour--reason, ex cathedra, pro-i nounces ii absurd that God should be moved by prayer; and it is discarded as a useless ceremony or restricted: in its province to thanksgiving and praise; or else, if extended to petition at all, confined in its influence to the heart of the suppliant. It will not be allowed that God is affected, or that prayer moves him to a special interposition. A general providence is readily admitted as not incompatil with the attributes of God, but a special providence is as stoully denied, as if there could be a general, without special providences. James,

“ The effectual servent prayer of a righteous man availeth much;” rationalism declares it inefficient. Paul exhorts that “prayer be made for all men;" rationalism rejects the exhortation as unphilosophical and absurd. In short, the religion of God teaches, without qnalification, the cheering and gracious doctrine, that he heareth prayer, while the religion of man so modifies and explains it as to make it a mere nullity; a religious ceremony it is true, but a useless and unmeaning one.


2н 2 ,

The most explicit precepts and frequent examples of the sacred word are distorted to subserve a theory, and reason assumes the supremacy over faith.

The great Robert Hall, who was occasionally remarkable for severity of repartee, on hearing a vain ignoramus boasting that he believed nothing which he did not understand, replied that he must then have a very short creed; and so we think it must be with all, however learned or profound they may be, who make their own powers of comprehension the limit of their faith. He who knows the inost, feels most his ignorance, and it is only the sciolist who fancies himself at the bottom of the deep fountain of knowledge. Astronomy, which of all sciences tends most to expand the mind and enlarge our conceptions of the vastness of creation, teaches us also our own weakness, by presenting us mysteries which it is utterly beyond our powers to fathom; and if we are baffled in our search into creation and lost in the hidden laws and influences which are there at play, how presumptuous is it to expect to find out Him who has made them! Him “ who coinmandeth the sun, and it riseth not, and sealeth up the stars; who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea; who maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south; who doth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number."

It is true, we can observe the moveinents of the heavenly bodies, and by the aid of mathematics determine their paths, -We can calculate their velocity and measure their distance, and verify our conclusions by their periodic movements; yea, we can even compute the force which governs them, determine the laws by which they vary their intensity, and speak of them familiarly by name, as centrifugal and centripelal; but what are they? where do they reside ? what is their nature? These, and a thousand similar questions, are as nuanswerable to us, as the mystery of a creation out of nothing. What is it that holds yonder beautiful orb in its appointed path, and draws it down constantly from the natural straightforward course, compelling it to move in a certain conic section ? Look at the glorious luminary of day, sending us through the trackless waste of ninety-five millions of miles, from the first day of time till this its sixth millennium, light, life, and heat; see its broad diameter, ils vast diinensions, equal to more than a million and a third such balls as the earth we juhabit; consider it, in its majestic rotation, poised in the unsubstantial ether, a comparatively motionless centre to this our beautiful and wonderful system.

What holds it there? There are no. material cables mooring it to this immovable spot in the great ocean of space, yet it moves not from its place: with all its weight and magnitude, it hangs in mid-air, like a phantom, and falls not. Ah! there is a mystery here. We call it gravity, but this is only a name for a cause of which we are ignorant, derived from its observed effects upon material bodies. These effects are found to be greater or less, according to the inverse ratio of the squares of the distances ; and this, Sir Isaac Newton discovered, but he could not penetrate to the cause, though he named it gravity. We cannot tell how it is that at the distance of many millions of miles, the planets of one system are held as firmly in their accustomed paths by the sun, as though they were bound to it by strong and durable ligaments; nor how the sun in turn is restrained to a given point in space, about which it revolves. Yet astronomers bave discovered that such is the fact, and we believe it.

If, then, in the physical world we receive as true, facts that are utterly above our comprehension and contrary to the ordinary observation of our senses, as the poising upon nothing, incalculably vast and ponderous bodies; is it not equally, yea, more rational in the moral world, where the laws are less fixed and determinate, to receive into full con. fidence those mysteries, which, though unintelligible to us, have been revealed by a benevolent God, and which are so intimately connected with our enjoyment, both of Him and the wonderful works of his hands. Revelation is to religion what facts are co philosophy; -and as 110 philosopher would reject a well ascertained fact, simply because he could not discover its causes, so the Christian should not withhold his faith in a clear and explicit revelation, merely because he cannot bend it to his philosophy. We have taken an example from astronomy, of a fact, which we are compelled to admit, although it appears reasonably impossible ; but we need not go beyond ourselves for an instance. Who can deny the strange and mysterious union of spirit with matter its wonderful operation upon the material organization of the human body; yet who can explain the connexiou, or understand the mode of its existence ? The fact is inexplicable, yet unquestioned. When then an inspired teacher reveals any doctrine concerning our relation to God-it matters not what- “We have but two queries to make, Does he speak infallibiy ? and, What does he say? These being determined, doubts must cease. Facts are facts, whether believed or not: the rotation of the earth upon its axis did not depend upon the Pope's believing or understanding it. Galileo's renunciation of the doctrine before the persecuting cardinal, did not stop it. No more can our rejection of a revealed principle or doctrine affeet its truth. It stands upon the veracity of God, and not upon the intellectual power of


But why should we presume to pronounce that impossible which we cannot comprehend ? Nothing is impossible with God: many things are incomprehensible to man. And even in those things, that he is permitted to fathom, how few are there that understand them all. How many are there to whom a demonstration in Euclid, or an intricate fluctionary process in mathematics, would be as utterly inexplicable as the greatest mystery in revelation ? Take a man who has never heard of the science of astronomy, and tell him you can measure the exact distance from the earth to the moon, or the sun, or any of the planets ; and how perfectly impossible will it seem to him. We should smile at his incredulity and marvel at his presumption; yet he is less incredulous, less presumptive, than the man who rejects the mysteries of revelation, and makes his own span-like intellect the measure of the Infinit Mind. O how humble and child-like should we be when we take into our hand the Book of God! How devoutly should we discard every temptation to enter into vain and worthless speculatious upon untaught questions ;

and with what fond credulity should we drink in, as from the sweet fountain of purity and truth, every disclosure, no matter how mysterious, which in the wisdom of our heavenly Father, it has been good to make unto us.




AT THE LATE DISCUSSION, AT LEXINGTON. From the Christian Journal, April 6th, 1844. BROTHER FERGUSON,- In accordance with the wishes of many of the brethren, I herewith send you for publication, a brief statement of the reasons which induced me a few mouths ago, to leave the ranks of Paido-baptism, and embrace the scriptural and more rational doctrine of the baptisin of believers " for the remission of sins.'

It may not be amiss to preface these reasons with some remarks on my early education and religious associations, together with a brief notice of some of the most important incidents in my history connected with the Lutheran church. This will the better prepare the reader to appreciate the motives which induced me to change iny position on the subject of baptism, and serve, moreover, to correct a number of unauthorized reports, and reckless misrepresentations, which have been fabricated by the enemies of truth, and industriously circulated by the blinded devotees of sectarianism.

Be it known then, first of all that, in the elegant style of Paido-baptists, I was regularly born, baptized, and raised a Presbyterian. I have no doubt but my parents sincerely thought that they were discharging a solemn Christian duty, when they had ine christened according to the forms and customs of the Presbyterian church; and for their well meant efforts and pious intentions, I entertain for them emotions of the most unbounded gratitude. I need not tell thein, nor any one else however, that the sincerity with which an act is performed, is no proof that the act itself is a scriptural one.

That they, and all my old friends may speedily embrace" the gospel of the grace of God," in all its primitive siinplicity, loveliness, and power, is my daily and most

About twelve years ago, I voluntarily connected myself

fervent prayer.

« ZurückWeiter »