« PreviousContinue »
against argument; we can summon up passion to grapple with passion; but the calm, sweet tone of rectitude lifts the miraculous hand to still the tempest. We cannot, it is not in nature to be angry with, to despise, insult or oppose the conscientious man. We never do it without violence to our own feelings. And this leads to another remark, that this having a good conscience is the only condition of inward peace. Most peculiar is the contentment, the cheerfulness, the unfailing joy, the serenity of a conscientious spirit. It expresses itself with a simple earnestness, where all shifts and concealments and painful resources and artful maskings are torn away for ever. It goes straight onward, while the doubtful, the timid, the prudent, the selfish, stumble and slip and are reeling to and fro in the flinty road. Singleness of heart, purity of conscience, the consistent spirit of duty, has been felt in all ages to be the condition of heavenly favor. There are conscientious souls whose countenances and tones and actions seem to us bright with more than earthly beauty. Conscience, among all men, savage and civilized, Gentile and Christian, has been regarded as the Holy of Holies, the sacred tabernacle in the soul, where the spirit of the Lord manifests itself. He who is conscientious, is born anew. This giving ourselves up to conscience is the becoming a child of God. Conscientiousness is full of the promise and hope of immortality.
WHAT IS CHARITY.
BY THE BOSTON BARD.
"Tis not to pause, when at my door
"Tis not to spurn a brother's prayer,
And say that "I have none."
She thinketh nothing wrong,
Nor vaunteth with her tongue.
Hope smileth at her door,
"Go, brother-sin no more." [Non-Resistant.] VOL. VIII.-29.
THE DUTIES OF THE CLERGY:
"A SERMON, preached at the Ordination of Mr. JOHN SULLIVAN DWIGHT, as Pastor of the Congregational Church in Northampton, May 20th, 1840. By GEORGE RIPLEY."
Mr. RIPLEY is one of that new and dangerous sect of heretics, known as Trascendentalists, probably because their folly and weakness transcend every thing before heard of. Their views are thus described by the Providence Journal, as quoted by the Cincinnati Chronicle:
"The doctrine of the Transcendentalists, in regard to the soul, appears to be this: They believe that each individual soul is a finite portion of, and an emanation from, the infinite spirit, which pervades the universe, and which spirit they call God. That when the matter, by which this finite soul is embodied, dies and becomes resolved into its original elements, the soul itself is merged or re-absorbed into the infinite, to be again embodied in other forms which shall come after it. Thus at death, all individuality, personality, consciousness, is lost, and we are, to all intents and purposes, as far as self is concerned, at an end. We would not assert that this is the creed of all the American writers of this class. We believe that their views on this subject are for the most part rather vague and unsettled. It is certainly the belief of many or most of the German Transcendentalists, and it seems to be the legiti mate conclusion to which their doctrine leads. Mr. Emerson himself has asserted, if we mistake not, that it is only selfishness that desires an individual immortality, and that in our holiest moments we are so absorbed in our present beatitude that we have no thought of the future. Still Mr. Emerson may believe in the immortality of the individual. It is exceedingly difficult to make out with precision what his views are. It is a subject, too, on which these writers are inclined to be particularly mysterious."
This account of the Transcendental faith is nearly as correct as that would be which should describe Christianity as consisting in the doctrines of Swedenborg. The truth is, but few of those who are so busy assaulting this much-to-be-condemned" doctrine" of Transcendentalism, (as if it were a creed with one article,) have ever read, much less studied, any one of the differing, and even opposing writers, to whom they apply the long and severe name, "Trans-cend-ent-a l-ists." Every one who takes it into his head to quit the skirt of John
Locke, comes at once under the ban, let him take up what other faith he will. Kant and Bronson Alcott, Coleridge and Waldo Emerson, Carlyle and Mr. Brownson, are all driven into a common fold, there to be slaughtered at their leisure by orthodox metaphysicians of the good old sensuous school, who can distinctly trace back this new heresy to the Deists and Atheists of England and France, beginning, we suppose, with Hobbes and ending with Tom Paine-a genealogical table very parallel to that which derives American democracy direct from Charles the I. and the faith of the Pilgrims from Gregory VII.
But we must leave the discussion of this question to another time, and give some extracts from Mr. Ripley's excellent
His text is "Do the work of an Evangelist,"-ii. Timothy iv: 5.; and, after speaking of the duties of the Evangelist in general, he refers to the changes of opinion which have taken place respecting the duties of the Evangelist.
"It is certain, that the aspect of the Christian ministry has greatly changed, even within the remembrance of the younger portion of this audience: its relations with society are less distinctly defined than formerly; it is deprived of the predominant and almost exclusive influence which it once enjoyed; other powerful means of social action have sprung up by its side, and in some degree thrown it into the shade; the freedom of opinion is not so much fettered by authority; its incumbents are not permitted to claim a monopoly of truth, nor their decisions regarded as oracles; and their connection with the people of their charge, which was once deemed almost a freehold for life, is now among the most contingent of all contingent events.
"Nor has the ministry succeeded in producing any thing like a uniformity of opinion on religious subjects. This has always been a favorite purpose with the professed teachers of divine truth; they have taken their own views of revelation as the standard of infallibility; they have regarded their own interpretation of the Gospel as of equal authority with the Gospel itself; they have identified the systems of theology which they found in the church, with the inspired conceptions of the mind of Christ. At a former period, and one indeed not very remote, the views which they cherished were generally shared by their people; men looked up to them as the authorized expounders of religion; and if there was sometimes a secret dissent from their opinions, there was little open disavowal of them. Every church held fast to its own creed, either written or understood; there were few disputes in re
gard to its meaning; and though the great division between those who relied on authority and those who trusted to rational conviction may always be traced; there was a pervading unanimity in each respective division; every household of faith spoke in a language which all its members recognized and understood: there was a family altar around which each one felt himself at home.
"A different state of things is now experienced among all the churches of the land. The unlimited freedom of thought which happily prevails in this community, produces a general fermentation; the ancient repose is disturbed; the stagnation of the past has given place to intense mental action; the doctrines of the theologians are brought before the tribunal of the people; a struggle has taken place between the old and the new; the most rigid creeds have been unable to prevent the progress of thought; so that there is scarcely a church of any communion, in which opinion is not divided, and the foundations of ages shaken to their centre.
"It is natural to suppose that these combined influences would diminish the importance of the ministry, and by changing its character, deprive it of its authority. There are some who secretly wish, and others who fear, the realization of this event. The popular lecturer, the philosopher, the educator, it is thought by many, sustain hostile relations with the evangelist; they are supposed to take the work out of his hands; to leave him nothing to do; to make his occupation a sinecure; they must increase, while he must decrease; and the pulpit must ultimately give place to the chairs of the lyceum, the university, or the common school. But from these views I strongly dissent. I cannot recognise such an antagonism between the ministry and the prevailing tendencies of the day, as many apprehend or imagine. If the evangelist comprehends the character of his work, he will perceive that it is one which can be performed by none but himself; if it does not cover the whole ground of modern society, there is no institution which can take its place; his office may be modified, but it cannot be destroyed; he may discover new and more effective modes of discharging its duties; but the truth as it is in Jesus will still remain the instrument for the reformation of society and the salvation of man."
He afterwards goes on to point out the duties of the Evangelist in our time:
"The true work of the Evangelist, at the present day, therefore, is to bring the religion of society into accordance with the religion of Christ. He has nothing to do with the
perpetuation of prevalent ideas; he is not to ask how far his preaching will fall in with the tone of the times; he will scorn the enjoyment of popular favor, if it be gained at the expense of his own convictions; he will love his fellow men too well ever to flatter them with smooth words; but he takes his stand on the fact which no one can deny, that the prevailing religion of Christendom is below the standard of Christ, that no community is to be found in which the spirit of the Gospel is carried into full effect; he will therefore proclaim the truth which he sees, let it cut where it will; he will never wish to blunt the edge of the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God; and will announce the whole counsel of his Master, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear. "Do you ask in what respects the present religion of society is below the religion of Christ, I would ask in return, in what respects it comes up to that standard? Where is the community, in which the order of society, the general tone of morality, the every-day dealings between man and man, are based on the new commandment which the Redeemer gave to his disciples? Where is the church which can justly be described as the communion of the faithful; which enjoys the fellowship of the Holy Ghost; and which is crowned with the love, and joy, and peace, which are the peculiar fruits of the Spirit? Where are the perfect men in Christ Jesus, who have attained to the fulness of the stature of the sons of God; whose conversation is in Heaven; and to whom we could apply without misgiving, the common apostolic description of the diciples of Jesus, "They are the temple of God, and the spirit of God dwelleth in them." Think not, brethren, that in these remarks, I wish to condemn others and exalt ourselves. I speak not of this or that church, of this or that sect; I speak not of errors which we may see around us, and from which we are exempt; I claim no exemption for ourselves, from evils which belong to our age; I speak of the prevailing religion of society in this the nineteenth century from Him, whose garments' hem we scarce seem as yet to have touched; and surely not with the feeling of reproach or scorn, but in deepest grief do I confess, that we are all under the same condemnation; that calling ourselves Christians, we have yet failed to embody the idea of Jesus in our personal characters or our social institutions. We seem to have departed from Christ in the lapse of ages; we idolize our profession of the Gospel, while we poorly comprehend its spirit; and were the Master whose name we bear, to appear in the midst of us to-day, I should tremble for his reception; the