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men have united in recommending, viz. drawing nigh to the word of God, in affliction, and sickness, and approaching dissolution. No doubt they are deeply criminal who draw nigh to it only at such seasons, that is, who neglect it at other times; so are they also who read it at those times, as if it were a charm against present evil, or any invocation of the future good.” But the reading at any time with such a feeling in view, is no less bad, than in sickness or affliction: and to say, that of all seasons, sickness and affliction is the one least proper for the perusal of it, is to make an assertion in the very teeth of all experience, as well as directly contradictory of the word of God itself. We stop not to prove this: but we hasten to ask Mr. Irving how he should act if summoned to the house of mourning, or to the bed of sickness or death to visit an anxious but ignorant fellow-sinner? Would he refuse to attend? or if he gave his attendance, we should be glad to know, for what purpose it would be? Would it be to tell the inquiring, dying sinner, to shut up his Bible, inasmuch as that, “ of all seasons, was the least proper one for exomining it?" Would it be to tell him that “his concern about the name and word of God was a symptom only of his weakness?” No: we are persuaded, that in such awful, trying circumstances, he would act a better part: he would turn his back on his unscriptural theory, and in his practice identify bimself with his brethren, the ministers of good tidings
We subjoin the following curious specimen of the uncommon phraseology which our author sometimes employs, as well as of the nice distinctions and subtle refinements by which he too often obscures his subject:
“ You will be alarmed, when we carry our censure against the common spirit of dealing with it (i. e. the Word of God,) as a duty. Not that but it is a duty to peruse the Word of God, but that it is something infinitely higher. Duty means a verdict of conscience in its behalf. Now conscience is not an independent power, at the bidding of which the word abides to be opened, and at its forbidding to continue sealed ; but the word, let con. science bid or forbid, stands forth dressed in its own awful sanctions.-Believe and live-Believe not and die. If conscience have added her voice also, that is another sanction, but a sanction which is not needful to be su. peradded.”
Again he says:
“ To bind this tie (i. e. the relation between the Creator and the creature) nothing will suffice but strong and stubborn necessity. Duty, in truth, is the very lowest conception of it-privilege is a bigher-honour higher,-happi. ness and delight a higher still. But duty may be suspended by more pressing duty-privileges may be foregone and honour forgot, and the sense of happiness grow dull; but this of listening to his voice who plants the sense of duty, bestows privilege, honour, and happiness, and our every other faculty, is before all these, and is equalled by nothing but the stubbornest necessity. We should hear bis voice as the sun and stars do in their courses, as the rest. ful element of earth doth in its settled habitation. His voice is our law, which it is sacrilege, worse than rebellion, to disobey. He keeps the bands of our being together. His voice is the charter of our existence, which being disobeyed, we should run to annihilation, as our great father would have done, had not God in mercy given us a second chance, by erecting the plaiform of our being upon the new condition of probation, different from that of all known existences."
In conclusion, he adds:
“Necessity, therefore, I say, strong and eternal necessity, is that which joins the link between the creature and the Creator, and makes man incumbent to the voice of God."
Perhaps it would be difficult to find, in the same compass, in any author, more of what is absurd and ridiculous, than Mr. Irving has contrived to crowd into these few sentences. He commences by levelling his censure against dealing with the Word of God as a duty. He then acknowledges that it is a duty to read it; but admonishes us that we are not to read it on account of its being a duty. Duty means, he tells us, a verdict of conscience in its behalf. If so, we might conclude, that if this verdict be in behalf of the Word, we should read it. But this, it seems, would be an erroneous conclusion; because conscience is not an independent power, and the Word does not “abide to be opened at its bidding, nor at its forbidding, to continue sealed; but the word, let conscience bid or forbid, stands forth, dressed in its own awful sanctionBelieve and live-Believe not and die.” Now this means, if it mean any thing at all, that we are to read the word, whether it be our duty to read it or not. Next comes the binding of the tie between our Creator and us;
for which, we are told, nothing will suffice but strong and stubborn necessity. " Then we should hear his voice, as the sun and stars do in their courses-as the restful element of earth doth in its settled habitation." How is that, do we ask? Our author throws no light on the subject; but hastens to inform us, that “ His voice is our charter;" that he has given us a second chance, that we may escape running into annihilation;" and that he has done this,“ by erecting the platform of our being, upon the condition of our probation;" and subjoins the following luminous and very consolatory assurance of the whole matter; " Necessity, therefore, I say, strong and eternal necessity is that which joins the link between the creature and the Creator, and makes man incumbent to the voice of God.” Unquestionably Mr. Irving deserves the praise of originality in all this, as well as that of being faithful to his own principle, that of “passing the limits of pulpit theology and pulpit exhortation.' But we are disposed to think that a large portion of his readers will be of opinion with us, that, in this instance at least, it would have been better if he had “abided" within them.
That part of Mr. Irving's argument on judgment to come, entitled, « Preliminaries to solemn Judgment," requires special notice. It opens by stating the fact that
“God has appointed a day in which he will call an account of the good and the evil, and make a grand and notable decision between those who regarded him, and those who regarded him not."
of this solemn account he remarks-
" That though it be a subject of pure revelation, it is one which may be handled with great deference to human reason, and to our natural sentiments of justice; and therefore he solicits from his readers a lively exercise of all Iris faculties, and a ready proposal of all his doubts ; bis ob ject being, not to overawe him with terrific descriptions of things unseen, in which imagination may at liberty disport, but to convince him how
JANUARY, 1824.-NO. 261. 69
consonant things revealed are to the best sentiments and interests of orari kind."
That things revealed are consonant to what ought to be the sentiments, and to what actually are the best interests of mankind, is unquestionable. But it occurs, that Mr. Irving set himself a very difficult and trying, as well as unnecessary task, when he undertook to handle this subject of “pure revelation" with great deference to human reason, and to our natural sentiments of justice." In a matter of pure revelation, the province of human reason, after having ascertained that it is really a revelation, lies simply in investigating its true and proper meaning, bearing, and application. When it has done this, nothing more remains, than implicitly and cordially to acquiesce in it, as what is wisest and best. There is no point of divine revelation in which it is of more consequence to keep this principle constantly in view, than in that of a judgment to come. Unhappily our author las frequently lost sight of it in the course of this chapter. It contains, however, some things which are excelent and striking, which it will be a grateful office to render prominent, before we enter on the disagreeable task of exposing what is erroneous and mischievous. The manner in which he proposes to treat the subject is explained as follows:
“In order, therefore, to carry the reason of men along with us into this solemn subject of judgment to come, we shall consider the doubts and difficulties which the mind hath in meditating the transactions of the great day, and endeavour to render the best resolution of thein in our power, before entering upon the very article of the juilgment, and the principle upon which it proceeds. These preliminary doubts and hesitations are of two classes; one arising from the difficulties of conception, and the other arising from our apprehensions, lest justice should be violated.”— (P. 269.)
Of the first class of doubts he says: "They spring from ruminating upon the magnitude of the work to be performed, and the incredible multitude to be judged. When we would grapple with the subject, conception is stunned, and calculation confounded, and a most unpleasant incertitude induc d upon the mind. Our slow moving faculties cannot reckon the courtless multitudes, and our subdivisions of time cannot find moments for the execution of the mighty work. The details of each case reaching to the inmost thought, the discrimination of their various merit and demerit, with the proportionate award of justice to each, seem a weary work, for which infinite time, as well as Alo mighty faculties are required. Taking advantage of this confusion of the faculties of conception, many evil suggestions enter into the mind, and destroy the great effect which the revelation of judgment to come is designed to produce. One thinks he will pass muster in such a crowd, and that he need not take the matter to heart; another, that he will find a sort of countenance in the multitudes that are worse than he; a third, that if he be condemned, it will be in the companý of those whose company he preferred on earth, and will continue to prefer, so long as he continues to be himself: and thus the whole power of the revelation is laid prostrate.” (Pp. 270, 271.)
Our author obviates all objections of this kind, in the usual and only proper way of doing it, by a reference to the infinite intelligence and almighty power of God; showing at the same time, that similar objections may be urged against alınost every other part of divine revelation, if we
altempt to dive into the method by which they are to be carried into efsect; and “ thus out of all the good which there is in the revelation of creation and providence, it were easy to escape.” Thus, for example, as it respects creation. It is stated in Scripture that God created man of the dust of the earth, and that he formed Eve of a rib from Adam's side. This, he justly remarks, as it stands in the divine word, is a sublime lesson of God's power and our bumble origin, and of the common incorporate nature of man and woman; but if we come to task our powers of comprehension, we are punished for our presumption by the avid scepticism and barrenness of heart which comes over us. In like manner it happens, he shows, that out of the comforts of Providence, the wisest of men bave been beguiled by the nicety and importunateness of their research.
“ They have reasoned of the multitude of God's avocations throughout the peopled universe, in every star imagining the centre of some revolving system, in every system the dwelling place of various tribes of beings, until they had the Almighty so occupied as neither to have time nor care for our paltry earth. And with respect to the earth itself, they are overwhelmed by the consideration of the myriads who dwell therein, and their own insignificant place among so many; and thus they escape into a heartless indifference and a wreckless independence towards their Creator."
All this he truly observes, ". Ariseth from their subdividing, by active calculation, the great work which God hath to do, without, at the saule time, multiplying the power of the Almighty, to discharge it all, untroubled and undisturbed.”
And he adds,
“That equally fatal results are wrought by the same unrestrained appetite for speculation in the great work of redemption."
He treats next of the forms with wbich Judgment is presented to us in Scripture, riz.
" The ushering in of the solemn day, by the archangel and the trump of God; the white throne of judgment, with the Judge that sitteth there. on; the glorious company of angels; the opening of the books ; in which stands recorded every man's account of good and ill; the solemn sepa. ration to the right and to the left, of the two great divisions of men, and their separate verdicts of blessing and cursing."
Of these, he says,
“They are no more to be understood by the letter, than others of the works of God, but to be taken as an image or device of the transactions, done with the best similitude that the earth contains. It were, therefore, he intimates, a vain thing to puzzle imagination, and perplex conception with the details thereof, with the array of a human assize, or the bustle of a judgment-seat, where all the world was to appear, and to be taken successively under cognizance of the judge ; for, instantly, immensity overwhelms the thought, and stupifies the feeling, the crowd forms a shel. ter to the fears, and the coinpany, the innumerable companions of our fate, gives a cheer to the misgiving heart. We throw ourselves loose, therefore, he says, from the details of the ritual, and aim at nothing but to preserve the spirit of the transaction ; not but that these details are highly useful, and in the very best keeping with the majesty and terror of the scene, serving to convey ideas and imaginations of the great event, and 10 embody it to the mind."
He then gives bis view of the Judgment in the following words;
If I were to venture an opinion, it would be this: that the action will take place, not by a successive summons of each individual, and a successive inquisition of his case, but by an instantaneous separation of the classes, the one from the other. Nor do I fancy to myself the bodily pre. sence of any judge, or the utterance by his lips of vocal sounds, although it be so written, any inore than I fancy a loud voice to have been uttered by the Eternal for the light to come forth, or any other part of the material universe to arise into being. But I rather think it to be more conge. nial to the other works of God, when it is imagined that these souls, and the bodies created for their use, will be planted, without knowing how, each class in the abodes prepared for them; and that they will not be consulted about the equity of the measure. God will leave them to find out the rectitude of the proceeding, as he left us to find out the rectitude of his proceeding at the fall.”
Now this is a mode of treating the plain statements of Scripture, to which we have a decided objection. We perceive no difficulty in conducting the last judgment on the precise plan laid down in the sacred volume, taking into account whose power is to be employed in that great transaction. If Mr. Irving be allowed to exercise his fancy on the cvents of the creation, and of the judgment, we see no reason why a similar liberty should not be granted with respect to the fall of our first parents, and the events with which it is connected. We have been accustomed, in common with those who regard the Bible as a book which is not to be trifled with, to reprobate that system which represents the account of Adam's transgression and its consequences, as a figure or allegory. But, if the account of creation, (connected as it is with that transgression, and of judgment, (resulting as it does from that transgression,) be clothed in figure, we cannot understand how the idea of figure can be excluded from the fall. We have, besides this, another objection to Mr. Irving's mode of interpretation, grounded on a principle of his own. He regards the description of Judgment in the Seriptures, as a form of expression, used to meet the various faculties of human nature; as fancy, fear, hope, pain, or pleasure. Now this would be a good reason for leaving such form of expression just as we find it: but it is certainly a very bad reason for endeavouring to set it aside, or to detract from its force and meaning. On Mr. Irving's own showing, Almighty God designed, by a certain form of speech, to convey to the human mind, and to impress deeply upon it, cer. tain truths which eould not be so effectually imparted in any other way. Surely, then, he rather injures than serves the cause of religion, who would substitute his own glosses and conjectures, instead of that expressive language which it seemed best to the Divine wisdom to adopt.
Our author proceeds, in the next place, to remark, that there still remain two previous questions for examination; one, as to “God's ability to have in mind all that every creature has thought, said, and done, so as to divide destiny with such dexterous arbitration among them all;” (by the way, it is by no means from admiration of this phraseology, that we quote it, the other, as to our satisfaction with, and acquiescence in, the verdict.