Page images
PDF
EPUB

In this por

ted. How can it consistently lower most childish fictions which the huits high and holy claims ? How can man imagination perhaps ever conit at all yield to erroneous schemes ? trived. The classical student, in It certainly cannot but denounce perusing the writings of antiquity, them; and the fact that it gives the will be convinced that however the prophetic warning concerning them, vulgar believed, the more sensible of shews in what light Christians should the people must have rejected the view every religion which bas sprung endless tales of inythology, together up since the era of Christianity, or with the minute and fanciful descripwhich shall spring up hereafter. tions of the abodes of departed spir

3. In the disclosure of future and its, which are found in the poets. invisible realities, a decided prefer. The religion of modern paganism ence must be given to the Scriptures wherever it has existed, possesses over every other religion. Where the same revolting character, in its the realities to be described are not details of the invisible world. Whethknown, the inventor must follow al. er we reser to the popular traditions together, the dictates of his judgment. of the North or West, to the vedas of He must form to himself the most Hindoostan, or the Zendavesta of plausible theory he is able, concer. Persia, we shall find this same fea. ning the eternal world, and represent ture throughout—the lines of which it accordingly. But aside from the in each one are deepened in proporScriptures, low absurd is every thing tion to the depravity of the system of which has been communicated con

which it is a part. cerning the state after death! Where

But the Bible pursues an altothe Bible has not guided the spiritu- gether different course. al adventurer, into what extravagar tion of its contents we see that amacies bas he not fallen! God seems to zing knowledge of the human mind, have given up the contrivers of false which indeed it every where exhibreligions to a sort of fatuity. In one its. Unlike the Koran for instance, respect, they bave all egregiously it never attempts to explain what is erred, and proved most satisfactorily, inexplicable, io clothe spiritual obthat they never enjoyed any inter- jects with the attributes of matter, or course with Him, who knows the to “sensualize," as it has been well mind of man. I refer to the partic- expressed, “the purity of the diularity and minuteness of their de- vine essence.” Its representations tails concerning the eternal world. of invisible realities are given rathGeneral and indeterminate represen- er in allusions, than in direct similtations of that world, we readily ad- itudes—in slight louches, than in mit. But we are so constituted that deep and lengthened strokes. The we know not how to embrace nu- joys of heaven, and the pains of merous particulars, especially, if con- hell are described in a chastened and trary to their nature they are inves- general manner—are reduced, so to ted with material attributes, in regard speak, to shadowy and indetermine to objects originally so remote from ate forins, which seize the attention our apprehensions. If the attempt and satisfy the reason by their unis made, inevitable disgust and un- likeness to any thing on earth. In. belief arise in the minds of sober en- deed concerning the former, its most quirers. In Swedenborgianism, en- impressive account is, “Eye hath lightened reason revolts at the absur. not seen, nor ear heard, neither have dities which are produced by the entered into the heart of man, the particularity of its accounts of invi- things that God hath prepared for sible things. The Arabian impostor them that love bim." Its represenlong before in his famous Koran fell tations throughout, teach us that the into the same mistake, and he details, secrets of the eternal world can be in all their disgusting minuteness, the but faintly conceived, by any means which we possess of embodying them (and there have been many such speinto form, and consistency.

ciosa miracula,) was the only aties4. The difference of external at- ta:ion which Mahomet deigned to testations, between the religion of give of a heavenly mission. The the Bible and all others, is decidedly systems of Paganism, as also the and alone in favour of the former. Papal superstition, have occasion. The principal attestation of this na- ally indeed referred to supernatural ture, which has ever been attempted effects, pretended to be wrought in in the history of religion, is miracles. confirmation of a divine authority, These, in the opinion of mankind, But we may safely reject pretensions have been thought necessary in or

of this nature in aid of systems alder to authenticate the claim to in- ready, or long established, because spiration. Indeed sound reason re- such pretensions are easily made quires them. Purity of doctrine is where only friends, or those who not alone a sufficient attestation of the are ioterested in the imposture, must divine authority of any system. We be its witnesses. There is a vast difcannot tell how pure, or excellent ference between holding up a rethose doctrines must be which come ligion by these secret, ambiguous, from heaven, since we can conceive and suspicious performances, and of different degrees of purity or ex- establishing it at first by a series of cellence. The quality of the truths public beneficent miracles, performcommunicated is not in itself, there. ed in the face of unbelievers and enfore, the measure or index of their emies, as well as of friends. In the inspiration. We cannot spt down latter way, the religious system of this evidence of revealed religion so the Bible was established under Molow as some bave done. But it is ses and afterwards under Cbrist, and not entirely to be depended on aside it is unique in the history of the from external attestations. When world. The propagators of this reone coines professedly with a message ligion, willing to answer the general from heaven, we need to know his expectations of mankind, canje mantestimonials. This is a natural en fully forward. and proved that they quiry. His own conviction may be were inspired by heaven in performsufficient for himself, but not for ing works which heaven only could others : and if he have such a mes- enable them to perform. A circumsage, God, who does nothing in vain, stance material bere also, is, ihat will enable hiin to substantiate it. these works were recorded riot long The author of Swedenborgianism has after, and even in some instances, therefore acted against the common during the life time of those, before sense of mankind, in pretending that whose eyes they were exhibited. In the nature of his religion is its own this respect, the accounts of mire proof. Doubtless he said this, be acles written several centuries after cause he could only assert that he they took place, as for instance, was divinely cominissioned, and not those of Pythagoras, and Apolloniprove

it. Mabonet was in a sim- us of Tyana, are by no means to be ilar predicament. The nature of put in competition with the miracles the proof he intended to give of his recorded in the Bible. own mission was, however, of the 5. We may estimate the value of most forcible kind. It is conveyed scriprural religion compared with in the following reply to him of his others, in its holiness or practical kinsman Ali, when the impostor so moral effects: The holy tendency licited assistance in his enterprise. of this religion is a circumstance “O prophet” whoever rises against which distinguishes it from all false thee, I will dash out his teeth, tear out religions. These are, in general, his eyes, break his legs, rip up his systems of impurity, fraud and bru: belly.” The miracle of the sword, tality. Their legitimate effect is to pollute and degrade the mind, promulgation in the days of Christ enlisting its associations in favour of and bis apostles, and under the influsin, and confining the exertion of its

ence of the Holy Spirit, the human faculties to low or secular objects. character shone out as the son, from Doubtless some of them, especially the midst of thick darkness. The those that have been formed under world, wherever the gospel was rethe light of the bible, have here and ceived, put on a new and different there, a shining spot of heavenly aspect. Believers were inspired truth, and of a pure morality. But with glorious hopes, joys and resothe preponderance of the darkness is lutions. Their minds which had so great that it makes almost all the been filled with lust, violence and impression, and the light almost none. darkness, became the abode of vir. The most unexceptionable of these tue, gentleness and knowledge. The systems teach much that is puerile voice of God exacting holiness, yet in matter, erroneous in sentiment, exercising mercy, awoke man from and unholy in practice. They nei- bis sintul and deadly sleep. It ther define the nature of holiness, broke the charm which had entrannor exhibit any instances of it in ac- ced him for four thousand years, and tual life. They agree, therefore, set him free to tread the ever-ascende but too well with the ignorance, pre- ing path of • life and immortality.” judices, and lust of the human beart. Such at first were the practical results Indeed, mankind in their natural of the holy doctrines of the cross. state, prefer any religion to a holy They have been similar on the hearts religion. They love a licentious re- and lives of inankind ever since, in ligion, or even one of numerous a id proportion to the vigour and purity incrinvenient forms and ceremonies, with which those doctrines have been (to such, a French philosopher says exhibited. Compared with other they are the most strongly atiached,) schemes of religious belief in this provided that under these, they may respect also, the religion of the escape the obligation of giving their scriptures is alone from heaven). hearts to God. It is not wonderful There are several other points therefore, that false schemes have perhaps of equal importance with had their adherence, and false gods, those that have been considered, their worshippers, in every age. which present a contrast between

But infinitely different in this re- this religion and the various superspect is the true religion. That, as stitions embraced by mankind. But is hardly needed to be bere proved, these are sufficient, and more than is consummately pure and amiable. sufficient to authorize the inference It is altogether worthy of the moral which the writer bas already deduperfections of Him from whom it ced, and to give the reader some idea emanated.

Taken in connexion of this fruitful and profitable source with the great external seal which of inquiry. A comparison of the God has affixed to it, it wants nothing kind which has now been attempted, besides, to recommend it to perishing especially if pursued more into desinners. Accordingly all that cordial. tail. than bas here been thought adly receive it are transformed into visable, mighi do much to deter some new creatures. The temper of their persons from becoming victims to hearts is essentially changed, their the arts of religious imposture. lore of sin is subdued, and their Let all remember that the only book minds throughout take a heavenly in which God has spoken to manbias. I have no room to detail the kind is the Bible; and that whatconsistent practical effects of the ever he has designed to communitrue religion. Nothing is equal to cate and enjoin therein, they are it, or even like it on earth. Suffice bound, by a regard of his authority, it to say, tbat upon its more complete and of their salvation, to believe and

practice.

B. N

ces.

For the Christian Spectator. of hierarchy in the church of Christ.

The multiplication of presbyters beLay Presbyters, No. VIII.

came necessary in the cities, as the Thascius Cyprianus was a native number of christians increased, of Africa, and a celebrated teacher more churches than one being in of rhetoric in Carthage. Convinced them now prohibited. The danger by Cæcilius, a presbyter, about the in times of persecution of convening middle of the third century, he in multitudes, the instruction of cat. adopted his name at his baptism; echumeni apart from the church, the was, in the compass of a year, or- frequency of schisms, and other cir. dained a presbyter; and, in the cumstances, evince, that different next, made a bishop by the suf- presbyters conducted worship, at frage of the people, but against the least occasionally, in separate plaopinion of five of the eight presbyters

But neither has diocesan episof the Church. (a) He soon desert- copacy, nor a solitary instance of a ed his charge, retiring from perse. ruling, or lay elder as yet occurred. cution. Censured by bis people, Had there existed more than one and the christians at Rome, he als congregation in Carthage, or Rome, leged among other defences, a divine they must have appeared in Cypriadmonition revealed by vision. His an's letters; for it is not probable sudden change from Gentilism, and that any other schisms, or heresies almost simultaneous promotions ; his arose in either of those cities, with: conscious possession of superior tal- in the period of his letters, than ents, with consequent impatience of those which he has mentioned. The instruction and ignorance of evangel- minuteness of his descriptions of ical doctrines, rendered him the vic- persons and things, renders it certim of numerous and destructive er- tain, that bad he been placed over rors. His native ambition, stimula- more than one church, it would have ted by opposition, and supported by appeared. On the contrary, no sepmistaken conceptions of priestly arate churches, no diversity of com. power, led him to employ the pro- munions, no seduction of any partictracted period of his retirement, in

ular section of his charge, are seen ; epistolary correspondence not only but though convening in small numwith his own forsaken charge, but bers, and possibly in different places, with the bishops and presbyters of they are considered one church, have all the churches in the civilized ing the same officers. world, wherever there existed inqui- The bishop and presbyters at etude. With him beresy and schism Carthage sat on the same bench, appeared convertible terms, and dis- were all, in the language of the day, cipline, rather than truth, the proper priests, to instruct and administer instrument of their destruction. The ordinances, acted jo concert in all bishops and church at Rome were judgments, excommunications, and successively dependent on his gui- restorations; and, except when Cypdance, or jealous of his influence. rian assumed the power, but for The numerous bishops of Africa whiclı he always offered an excuse, found him a bond of union, nor were they joined in ordinations. In the the churches in Spain and Cappado- absence of the bishop, we find the cia, opposite extremes, insensible of presbyters refusing the communion his ascendency. His ideas of epis- to Gaius a co-presbyter, and to a copal unity, and of the necessity of deacon, in which Cyprian acknowlintercourse and mutual support edges, they acted uprightly and by among bishops, then every where pa- rule. (b) Though evidently not rochial, probably laid the foundation scrupulous in the assumption of pow. (a) Vide Epist. 43. p. 227.

(b) p. 217, Ep. 34.- integre et cum disciplina fecistis.

argues

er, he trespassed only miere he see, diocesan government. Though was sure of support, and never ven- tumid with self-importance, and entured to ordain a presbyter, but in amoured of ecclesiastical influence, the presbytery.

it is possible that his opposition to When omitting bishops, readers, the erection of a second altar, church subdeacons, and acolythes, he names and bishop, in any place, was at only prepositi and diaconi, it is evi- least primarily to suppress heresy. dence that the two original orders He wrote to Cornelius at Rome, were not forgotten. “ Since it be- who had informed him of the ordi. comes all to be observant of good nation of Novatian there, that it was order, much rather is it proper that irregular, because where there is the presbyters and deacons, prepos- one bishop there cannot be another, ilos et diaconos, should take care of and pronounces him a spurious and this, who may afford an example rival bead, out of the church. (e) and proof to others, by their conver- He that Cornelius succeeded sation and manners." (c) At first Fabianus, and that Novatian had no opposed by the inajority of his co- predecessor at Rome. His crime presbyters, and not yet secure of was therefore, that of Jeroboam. If new ones in whom he could confide, Novatian worshipped the true God, his language was very different from so did Korah. Why there could not bis after conduct. He declared that have been a second church at Rome, he had resolved from the commence- if the number of converts had justiment of his episcopate, to do noth- fied it, was neither asked, nor anprivately by his own opinion, with swered. That all new assemblies out the counsel of his presbytery, were heretical, soon became, by his and without the consent of the peu influence, the popular opinion. Cypple.” (d) This representation ex- rian contended that those who are torted by circumstances, was in uni- in error, have not the Holy Spirit; son with those established customs, that this is necessary to him who in the changing of which he was too baptizes; because he who baptizes, successful. Hitherto each original remits sius. He affirmed also, that church was governed by its presby. the water must be made clean, sanctery, the president, WECTWS, of tified by the priest ; “ that it may which is called in Cyprian, some- be able to wash away the sins of him times præpositus, but chiefly episco- who is baptized,” which is proved pus. Such presbytery, with its pres- by the passage I will pour clean ident, had been heretofore compe- water upon you and ye shall be tent to the management of the ec- clean." (0) From such reasonings clesiastic government and worship he concluded, that their ordinations of the christians in each city, be- and their baptisms were void. Fircause of the paucity of their pum- milianus, bishop of Cesarea in Capber. Cyprian, by the erroneous padocia, in his letter to Cyprian (g) principle, that where a church has says of all heretics, “ that if they dibeen planted no other ought to be vide themselves from the church of erected, professedly an antidote to God, they can have nothing of powschisın, at the same time enhanced er or of grace ; seeing all power and episcopal influence, and laid the grace are placed in the church, foundation of what he did not fore. where the elders preside, who pos(c) Ep. 4. p. 174.

(e) Adulterum et contrarium caput ex(d) Quando à primordio episcopatus tra ecclesiam. p. 231. mei statuerim, nihil sine consilio vestro, (T) pp. 295, 296, 300. et sine consensu plebis, meâ privatim sen.

(g) Epist. 75. “ in ecclesia constituta tentia gererede iis quæ vel gesta sunt sit, ubi præsident majores natu, qui et vel gerenıla, sicut honor mutuus poscit in baptizandi, et manum imponendi, ordicommune tractabimus. p. 192.

nandi possident potestatem.”

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »