« FöregåendeFortsätt »
on account of this association, that we deem it of particular importance, to bring it under investigation. The fear of penitents, is to be considered as preparatory to the gospel, rather than as a consequence of it. Let the case be stated thus: of two kinds of preaching, viz. one which asserts, and the other denies the knowledge of salvation through the remission of sins. Which is the most calculated to give the spirit of fear? We can come to the conclusion by a short and direct process. All the parties to the question will readily acknowledge themselves to be sinners. But this acknowledgment cannot be made under a consciousness of guilt and a doubt of pardon, without fear. Every guilty man is afraid of the law; every unpardoned criminal is afraid of punishment. If the gospel holds out no knowledge or assurance of pardon, it leaves all under the spirit of fear. Why is one professor of religion afraid to die, and another willing, and even desirous to depart and be with Christ? One of the objects of the gospel is, to deliver those who all their life time, through fear of death, were subject to bondage. The most destructive doctrine of the gospel is assu
Those who deny this doctrine, are mostly consistent with themselves. They do not affect to conceal the fact, that their fear produces doubts. Their only shelter and consolation is, the universality of their case. They have fears to be sure, but they tell us, the best of men are not without them; as the gospel furnishes no remedy for them. Is not this saying in effect, that the gospel shews ‘us our danger, but not our remedy? Or in other words leaves us in a state of imperfect knowledge upon this important point? It is extraordinary, that those who teach a plan of salvation, which secures to the believer an experimental knowledge of the pardon of sin, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, should have the spirit of fear urged against their system, as one of its most pernicious consequences, by men who make their doubts and fears, a kind of duty and virtue, a proof and test as it were, that they are good christians. The believers to whom the Epistle to the Romans was written, had not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but the spirit of adoption, whereby they could cry Abba father, The Spirit bore witness with their spirit, that they were the children of God. Paul knew in whom he had believed, and was persuaded of his ability to save his soul. St. John's. believers, had the witness in themselves. The light of the gospel, is the great light; the light of the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ. He who follows this Saviour, does not walk in darkness; for he has the light of life. Every thing in the gospel bespeaks assurance. The abundance of the love proclaimed—the unparalleled evidence of it—the rich effusion of grace, and all the precious and exceeding great promises, authorise this conclusion. "God hath not given the spirit of fear.”.
But we must hasten on to the positive parts of our subject. Fear and courage have a reference to inanimate, as well as animate subjects; or rather to things as well as persons. So we say, men are afraid of labor, and of dangers, as well as of enemies. And we suppose, power implies courage, that is moral and intellectual strength. There are three causes of power, fortitude or energy, under the excitement of which, mankind most commonly act, which the Apostle seems to exclude from the gospel, by saying, that it gives us the spirit of love and a sound mind, viz. self-love, hatred, and intoxication, or the selfish affections, the malevolent passions, and a drunken or mad state of mind. If he had said, God hath given us the spirit of selflove-the spirit of hatred and revenge—and the spirit of intoxication, none of the princes of this world, would have had any difficulty in understanding him. The art by which those men govern the human race, is the same in all ages and countries. They begin by making themselves to be feared ; but men in a mere state of servility, have no courage. They cannot fight. When, therefore they want to use their servile dependents for defence or conquest, they inspire them with hatred to their enemies, and madden their brains by ambition or alcohol. These mortal gods of the earth, can form no idea of a race of heroic and vigorous subjects, without servile or superstitious fear, animated with an ardent love to the human race, and quite sober minded, self collected and rational. In our own country, we have a striking example of the truth of our theory. Why can we make no military use of our colored slaves ? Why are we afraid to trust arms in their hands ? Not surely, because they fear their masters more than any other slaves, or because their bondage is harder; for this is not the fact. They are not punished for disobedience as severely as soldiers; nor shot for running away, as soldiers are for desertion. The reason is, we have no enemy against whom we can rouse their vindictive and revengeful passions; and thus to madden their minds without these passions, they will be timid
and cowardly, and with them our own safety might be endangered. If God hath given to the ministers and members of the christian church, the spirit of love, and of a sound or sober mind, and they are, nevertheless, strong and courageous, is it not plain, that his kingdom is not of this world? In the freest republics, not excepting our own, can men be governed by benevolence and intelligence alone? Can an American statesman get on, and maintain his popularity, without great skill in the management of the selfish and irrascible feelings? Will it not be well if he stops here, and does not find, or thinks he finds it necessary, to influence the rational feelings, and intoxicate the rational mind with the images of war.
A truly scriptural education and government, as well as experience, tend to produce love and benevolence, and a healthy and vigorous state of mind. God hath given us the spirit of love. He hath taught us in a way that we are no where else taught; that he hath made of one blood all the nations of the earth; that he is loving to every man, and his tender mercies are over all his works. He hath given most unexampled demonstration of his love to the world, the universe of his creatures, in the gift of his only begotten Son. It is in the gospel chiefly, that we learn the true relation of man to man, and our obligation to love every creature whom God hath made in the common likeness to himself and to one another. And this is the only true foundation of universal benevolence, the only consideration which can sustain in our hearts, a feeling of humanity, under the various, and almost innumerable temptations to make personal and rational exceptions to the objects of its exercise. This spirit of love enables us to struggle successfully against irrascible emotions and malevolent propensities. Few men hate forever; and among those that do, who hates every body? It is the enlarged and steady feelings of good will to man, which is so rare among good men; and still more rarely imbibed in principles like our mother's milk, is the first food of nature.
em of religious education should give us a sound mind, as well as a warm heart. The history of all nations, and of all individuals, shows how much soundness of mind depends upon education. All infant and uninstructed minds, are naturally weak, and their first conceptions irnperfect or erroneous : and a bad education unavoidably tends to confirm or aggravate these evils. We
do not mean to be understood to say, that education alone, can make us christians. But we do say, that the scriptures abound with truth and facts, which may be derived into the mind by education, in a way at once calculated to improve the head and mend the heart.
With these principles, will it not be possible to analyze any religious system of ancient or modern times, and to demonstrate its nature and tendency? The common man. ner among the professors and advocates of different systems, really amounts to nothing more than self-praise or self-flattery, and comes to the same end. Every man's opinions, himself being judge, are the best. This is evidently for the want of or the rejection of the proper data or criterion. * Take as an example, the propagation of religion by the sword. Do not those, who are found following in the wake of religious conquerors evince, that the sword gives the spirit of fear, and of course is an improper instrument of conversion ? Let the gospel be considered as a book, and is there any piece of religious composition of a less terrifying character ? Let it be considered in regard to its first ministers, or its first propagation; and shall we not realize the justness of the comparison, of sheep among wolves? No Musselman affects to conceal or blushes to own the victories by which the mission of his prophet is demonstrated; but the rapidity and extent of those conquests are too well known to need repetition. Now, the theological tenets or creeds of men, consecrate no bad passions. We cannot say of any military mission, that it gives the spirit of love, and of a sound mind. The love of man to man, as a fellow creature, as a brother of a kindred nature, and the soundness of mind necessary to reflection upon religion and morality, have little place in armies; nor are they calculated to supply the kind of strength or courage needed to wield and withstand the weapons of destruction.
The men who, at the word or frown of their leaders, march to the cannon's mouth, or rush upon the sword's point, and those who tremble under the lash, possess a common nature, and may be in equal bondage. Whence then, this immense difference in their courage? It is evidently owing to the artificial management of the passions and the imagination. A certain class of the Irish nation,
* Principles or standards.
are a remarkable example of this. They are treated by their rulers, as the worst subjects in the world, and praised by them as the best soldiers. Political vassals, in all ages and countries, have been employed to conquer their inaster's foes, and are easily rendered sufficiently fierce and furious to accomplish all the purposes of hatred and revenge. In what did the soldiers of the cross and crescent differ? Not in their liberty—not in their benevolence-not in their intelligence. The leaders on each side were absolute and tyrannical. Anger and wrath, hatred and revenge, raged furiously in the breasts of the hostile ranks; and their minds were bewildered and inflamed by the most irrational enthusiasm. Peter the hermit, in preaching a crusade against the infidels, gave no spirit of love towards the possessors of the holy sepulchre. And St. Louis received quite as humane treatment from his conqueror, Saladin, as he had ever shown to his captives. The truth is, that in all religious causes, an appeal to the sword, is an appeal to all the malevolent passions in the human heart, and these are trusted to, under the name of the God of battles. Slaves, without hatred and revenge, and the enthusiasm of a military ardor, cannot be kept in the ranks, to kill or be killed. They feel not sufficient energy to maintain the bloody strife; all other circumstances being equal, they must always be conquered by free men; unless their pas sions can be stimulated to madness, and their imaginations to phrenzy. This is the reason why servile armies have proved so ferocious and unrelenting in victory. The violent impulse of the passions, when the resistance is over. come, like a raging torrent breaking through an opposing mound, spreads ruin and destruction far and wide. The wars, therefore, of free and well balanced governments, will be either defensive or come of the lusts which war in the members of the people, rather than in those of the rulers. Hence, to make men civilly and religiously free, is to make an advance towards the peace of nations; as wars will not only become less frequent, but less destructive. Already, from the partial influence of liberty and religion, some limits have been fixed to wars of extermination. But from liberty alone, without love and a sound mind, which the gospel only can give, we shall look in vain for a millenium.
Are we not now prepared to demonstrate, that the gospel is neither priest-craft, nor king-craft. That it is not of hu