« PreviousContinue »
ANDOVER-HARVARD THEOLOGICAL LIBRARY,
CAMBRID, 19. THE
The Western Messenger resumes its duties with the present number; and its editors take the earliest opportunity to say, that they have never felt so strong a conviction of the importance of this periodical, nor so good a hope for its success. If our friends will give us their aid, we pledge ourselves that this small, though not feeble Monthly, shall never be abandoned, till some more efficient organ of Truth supplies its place. The Messenger has done good, if we may trust the friendly commendations it has received; it is destined to do more, unless we are deceived in thinking our faith a vital one; and the present is a suitable occasion to describe what we consider to be its peculiar vocation, premising that we do not wish our contributors to be bound by our notions, and inviting all friends of religious liberty, rational piety and charity to use our pages in the way they think best.
Let the Western Messenger be devoted to a diffusion of the Spirit of Jesus. We will explain our meaning. As we understand the end of our Saviour's mission, it was to live a perfect spiritual life. God sent, in the fullness of time, a pure moral being upon earth to be an Ideal of Goodness. In no way could man's whole nature be so powerfully addressed, as through a divine character manifested in conduct. Man is affectionate; the Supreme Being, froin his incomprehensible
majesty, is often an abstraction rather than a real person to us; and in Jesus the image of his holiness was embodied, as an object for our love. Man is imaginative; and in the triumphant innocence of a crucified and ascended Master, a symbol was presented of the peace, which our hopes desire. Man is imitative; and a faultless model was set before us in the Son of God. Man is moral; and the most powerful motive appealed to our wills, in the unsullied rectitude of the Son of Man. Man is intellectual; and in the benign disinterestedness of Him, who was filled with the Father, our highest thought of moral beauty is satisfied. Could we be imbued with the faith, the hope, the love of Jesus, we should become indeed the children of God. “Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we should be changed into the same image from glory to glory;". The kingdom of God will come by the renewal of spiritual life in individual souls; and this moral re-creation of our hearts can be most effectually wrought by entering into the character of Jesus, by comprehending his design, appreciating his principles, and learning to apply his rules to daily duties as they arise in all social relations. We are to be morally perfected by becoming inspired with the Spirit of Jesus.
As we understand the Gospels, the doctrines which our Saviour taught were moral, not speculative, and addressed to conscience rather than the intellectual nature. And therefore we would have our own thoughts and the thoughts of our readers directed more to religious convictions than to theological arguments. Again let us explain our meaning. Throughout the biographies of the Prophet of Nazareth, not an instance is mentioned, in which he entered into lengthened discussions as to the being and nature of a God, as to his attributes or relations. He never seemed to recognise the possibility of doubts in any pure mind. His appeals were always to the unextinguished, unextinguishable spirit of reverence in the soul. His whole life, in every word and deed, was a manifestation of his gratitude, his trust, his devoted
He was one with the Father. Father! this was the only name, by which He could express his overflowing sense of the unspeakable goodness of God. His proof of a Deity was an unquestioning reliance on a providence; his argument for the Supreme Being's perfections was a self-sacrificing obedience; his best assurance of divine mercy was a condescending sweetness, which raised the fallen, and sought to find the lost. “He that hath seen me hath scen the Father.” Again, we examine the addresses of Jesus in vain to find any
elaborate reasonings upon the subject of immortality. The great conviction, that God would still be the God of souls he had loved, that he would not forget those he had once blessed, would not disappoint their hopes of higher goodness and truer peace, grew at once out of his faith in a Heavenly Father. &. God is not God of the dead, but of the living.” How can the good die? How can those, in whom the spirit of life dwells, pass like a dream from existence, merely by the accident of bodily dissolution? Jesus always spoke of eternal life as something now begun in every believing heart. He was himself already in heaven. In intimate friendship with the eternal Spirit, he had entered upon an illimitable progress toward perfection. The continued growth of a soul truly quickened was not a thing to be questioned, discussed and proved. It was a sublime reality, to be felt and asserted. The place, the time, the modes of that existence were speculations, which He left altogether aside. “This is Eternal Lise, that men should know thee, the only True God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Once more; Jesus never gave detailed descriptions of human nature. He addressed himself directly to the soul; to the soul conscious of weakness, yet strong in hope; burdened with sin, and longing for liberty; blinded with passion, still seeking light; sorrowful, but forever craving peace. “God sent his Šon into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might have life.” The sad facts of our moral struggle were understood, not related. Man is walking amid the grandest spiritual wonders, blind and deaf, recognising only by a passing touch the sublime presence which forever guards him. By prayer, by watchfulness, by humility, by faithfulness, he must be born again into the world of light, for which his Creator destines him. Jesus taught the urgency of our moral needs by his earnest appeals to our highest nature; he revealed his sense of the intrinsic worth of human beings by a love which found in the most degraded something to respect; and his hope for our redemption broke forth in the triumphant promise, that his very hour of agony should give him power over ail souls forever. Thus to our understanding our Saviour's instructions were pre-eminently moral. This was their peculiar characteristic. We would seek to copy this divinest model of teaching, by having our whole souls so baptized into “the spirit of adoption” and “the hope of glory," as to see all subjects in the light of heavenly truth.
But has not theology its place and its uses? Surely. Philosophy is a need of the intellect; and the clearer our thoughts,
other things being equal, unquestionably the purer are our feelings, and the more consistent our energies for good. Errors of the head are rubbish choking the springs of affection, and obstacles to the exercise of power. But we can never have the same confidence in theories, that we instinctively repose in the central truths of reason. We may be said to know, in the high sense in which "faith is the evidence of things not seen," that always, everywhere, in infinite modes, exists a perfect spirit, in whom centre—from whom stream all our ideas of life and loveliness; and that somewhere, at some time, in some manner, our now imperfect spirits shall find a union with Him, through unfolding graces and augmented force. But our speculations upon God and immortality, though by the demand of our minds for unity they must be carried on, should always be regarded as mere fragments of Truth. We have no wish or purpose to exclude theological discussions from our pages; for when ably conducted, they are at once interesting and instructive; but we do desire, that they should be regarded by writers and readers alike as subordinate to religious convictions.
Again, are there not injurious misconceptions and perversions, which are generally admitted, and which should be exposed? Yes! only too many; too many in our minds, as well as in others. The Sun of Righteousness is dimmed by many clouds. Thanks to the free-hearted and the wise of an earlier day, if any of these have been dispelled from our firmament. Let us be true to the light we have, and diffuse it, conscious meanwhile how
we are, and how much our own body needs a more single eye. But let it always be remembered, that errors are held dear, partly from the grain of truth which they contain, partly from accidental connection with truths, partly from grateful reverence for the good men of earlier times, who have adopted them, and partly from an honest fear of overturning the whole temple of faith by loosening from its walls a single stone. We must consider that a certain preparation of mind is needed to receive new views. The countless incidents of many years bring us into the position by which we become capable of admitting higher ' convictions. A removal of prejudices often does more than logical argumentation; the soft dropping rains undermine walls which batteries cannot prostrate. Sympathy should make us gentle, candid and respectful in opposition. “The first requisite of a Controversialist is Love." Until we see the roots of the tree of life in any heart, we should be guarded in our blows at the intertwining fibres of delusion. And though