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M A G A ZIN E.
THE AGE WE LIVE IN.
I. It has been observed that the only intelligent use of a man's writing a diary, is to show himself how events influence the development of his own character ; and that the use of biographical sketches is to teach the reader how particular occurrences in the life of another, contributed towards the formation of that other's character. In like manner, we make the best use of historic events, when we earnestly labour to make known the great features of public character among nations and communities to which they have contributed. We purpose, in two or three papers, to attempt to sketch “ The Age we Live in.”
No period, since the world began, has, in all probability, been marked by more signal events, or distinguished by more decided characteristics, than the present age. The public intellect of the world never prosecuted so many distinct and various inquiries, the "active powers” of mankind were never more fully laid under tribute to promote well defined and specific objects. Accordingly, we judge that an attempt to investigate the character of the Age," will amply repay the effort.
1. Nor can an attentive observer fail, even on the threshold of this great subject, to observe that an increased regard, which, Christians pay to Divine authority in matters of religion, is one of its most marked and pleasing features. The great vice of former ages was the ignoring of God's authority, and the establishment of man's, and that, notwithstanding that a supreme regard for God's holy word is one of the most obvious duties of those who profess that their's is a religion of Divine authority and communicated by a revelation of the Divine will. The devotees of the Church of Rome, throughout the whole history of the Popedom, have been accustomed to appeal, in matters of controversy, to tradition, to the fathers, to councils, and to successive and even rival Popes, in a spirit utterly at variance with the earnest recognition of the Supreme authority of Revelation. One great object of the Protestant Reformation undoubtedly was, the full and clear recognition of the Bible, as the grand rule in matters of faith, and the consignment of the usurped authority of the Church, the fathers, the councils, and the popes, to the limbo of exploded superstitions. Pity
that it did not more fully succeed. It were extremely ungenerous to deny to Luther and his noble coadjutors, the merit of having contributed largely towards this intended result, and yet, we must in candour acknowledge, that, even in the lifetime of the Reformers, their followers were often found yielding a reverence to the conflicting opi. nions of distinguished men, which but ill accorded with their theoretic notions of the submission due to the Spirit of inspiration. Nothing can be more noble than the celebrated maxim of Chillingworth, but we regret that it has not, in past ages, been more fully embodied in the controversies of the doctors of the Church, and in the life of its members.
We are pleased, however, to note the signs of progress in our own times, in the general repudiation on the part of enlightened Christians of those inonuments of human authority,—the creeds and the test acts, -which, from the time of Athanasius, down to that of the enactment of the last of the tests, have pressed as an incubus on the spirit of free inquiry. We behold an increasing indisposition in Protestant Churches to dishonour the Deity, by yielding an implicit reliance on human authority, in those cases where the dictates of the understanding are worthy of respect only in proportion as they agree with the oracles of God. Not many individuals in this age, especially among our Independent brethren, could be found willing to imitate Toplady in his “ Historic Testimony” in the attempt to establish a certain set of thèological tenets by reference to the opinions of uninspired men in early times. One of the necessary consequences of making the Bible the exclusive standard of appeal in matters of doctrine, is a nearer approach to uniformity of belief in the various sections of the Church. Christians more closely studying theology in the revealed word of God, than in the writings of men, have approached more nearly to identity of opinion, on all matters of faith and practice. In confirmation of this, we need only to direct attention to what has been recently witnessed of the gress of inquiry in a portion of the Church, where, on account of its connection with the State, progress was least to be expected. We allude to the ecclesiastical establishment of this country. When in one of the ecclesiastical courts a decision was given to the effect, that Baptismal Regeneration is the doctrine of the establishment, it came like a thunder-clap upon some of the most enlightened ministers and laymen of her communion. The judge who thus decided, is believed to have decreed according to the standards of the Church, and yet multitudes within the pale of that Church were almost petrified at the decision. How was this? Some may say that the standards are not agreed ; that it is possible to quote from them on both sides of tho question. Granted. But yet there is no doubt that the majority are decidedly in favour of the dogma of Baptismal Regeneration. What then is the explanation of the surprise and regret which greeted the
cisi in the ecclesiastical court? We believe it to be this ;-the judge decided according to the dicta of the majority of writings recognised by law, as standards of faith in the establishment, while the parties in question, had studied the matter much more in the word of God, than in writings of merely human authority. The
consequence was inevitable; they were found dissentient from the decision of one of their own courts. And thus, enlightened by the Word of God, those excellent individuals will find themselves obliged to protest against one of the fundamental doctrines of their Church, unless, indeed, they can believe that truth and error change character in accordance with the decisions of the ecclesiastical tribunals of the land. This, we trust, is an absurdity into which there is no danger of them falling.
Another evil kindred to this, and which has never until recently been very generally protested against is, the interference of the State in matters of religion. This evil, commencing with that celebrity of ecclesiastical history, who, by a strange misnomer, has been designated “ Constantine the Great ; -now more correctly known as the murderer of his father-in-law, his brother-in-law, his sister, his nephew, his son, and his wife--and perpetuated by men, too often of kindred character, is, when translated into plain forms of speech, neither more nor less than the usurpation on the part of the Civil Ruler of the Sovereignty of Christ in the Church; a usurpation, which the highest ecclesiastics have almost uniformly favoured, more or less, because of the patronage which worldly rulers were found willing to bestow as the price of the Church's dishonour. "Never was a more atrocious act of treason perpetrated against the crown rights of the Son of God than in this union of Church and State. Instead of being one of the Church's trophies, it is her badge of dishonour. As in the third century the emperors sought to buy off the Goths from making further inroads upon the Roman empire by paying tribute to the Gothic invader, so, in the fourth, one of the most politic of the Cæsars sought to prop up his tottering throne, by endowing the Christian Church, thinking that by thus constituting himself patron of the Church, he might turn the most powerful religious institution the empire had ever known into an instrument of policy. But this was a most disastrous attempt to combine the gold and the clay of that corrupt age. By this unnatural alliance, the throne of the Cæsars was preserved for a short space, but the gold became dross; the Church, corrupted by the contagion of its worldly guardians, was soon inundated in every part by the muddy streams which now set in from the Vatican. And thus it had continued for fourteen centuries, when the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers in America decreed that no such usurpation should be tolerated in the first Republic of the New World. A few years ago, we witnessed the enactment of a similar scene, but with greater lustre, if possible, in the northern part of this island, where the Free Church, jealous of the crown rights of King Jesus, did, with a decision worthy the countrymen of the immortal Knox, deliberately separate themselves from the purest ecclesiastical establishment in Christendom, rather than allow the State to interfere with the administration of the spiritualities of the Church. More recently, the British Anti-State Church Association have re-asserted, and even extended, the application of this great principle, maintaining as they do, that State interference with religion is not only in itself an impious usurpation