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child-world, and call out those who dwell in and are content with it to be her saints and heroes. She is not unwilling to bide her time; presently they who are light-hearted and at ease now shall have need enough of her, when the summer-days begin to be numbered, and the flowers droop, and the tempest gathers. Let there be a time to laugh; let the young rejoice in their youth ; let us not insist that they shall have only sermons upon great truths and solemn duties, only be sure that when the soul awakes, and the season of childhood is over, an earnest word shall be ready for the opened ear.
But sooner or later the day of thoughtfulness comes, and now if we would have joy and peace, - happy days, happy New Years, - it must be not as children, but as men and women, and our thankfulness for the gift of life, and our satisfaction in it, will be in proportion to the depth and genuineness of our Christian piety. If we are to rejoice at all in this world of ours, if we are to find pleasure in a being too great to be other than tragic, it must be as believers in God and in the Son of God.
The Gospel is the light of our years. The Gospel helps us to keep festal time, because it establishes us in the firm persuasion that God doeth all things well; that this world in which we live is his world as well as our world; that it went forth from his hand, not as an experiment of uncertain issue, but as the complete expression of a wisdom which seeth the end in the beginning, and cannot err, - of a love which can propose and do no harm to any creature. We profess no skill to explain the mystery of our life. Sin and sorrow meet us at every turn, violated law and broken peace. Whether we have any religious convictions or not, we do not find the world just the place where one would say without misgivings to his fellow, A happy New Year to you! We meet in houses of worship and chant our jubilates ; we gather in pleasant dwellings, where the light shines down upon innocent and happy faces, and all looks glad and beautiful ; — but who can forget, be he Christian or Gentile, the outer dark. ness? Who would like to leave one of our thousands of homes of purity, love, and cheerfulness, on some day of rejoicing and giving, and visit those quarters of the city where the wretched and the vicious are heaped together, a seething mass of corruption ? Who can keep his thoughts from wandering sometimes in those directions, or refrain from the question, What right have I to laugh, whilst so many weep? Have the days yet come in our world when we can be glad, and betake ourselves to amusements ? Ought not life to be an unbroken crusade, carried forward in fear and sorrow ? Now we can meet this state of mind only with the word of Christian faith. If we believe in God, we have no need to explain His world. If we have confidence in an earthly friend, his strangest works do not perplex us, and we are sure that they are better than they seem. A true piety carries the soul back to a Perfection which, whilst it suffers and in. deed stimulates activity to realize every ideal, and to supply every deficiency in our human circumstances, is nevertheless our assurance that the world we live in was wisely planned, and is lovingly guided, and that to be gloomy and desperate over it comes not of faith, but of faithlessness, not of the humility which waits, but of the conceit and haste that virtually sit in judgment upon God, and this before the time. We most frankly confess, that if, in the little knowledge of our poor mind, we were making a world, it would not be such a one as this. But, happily, not man, rather the All-wise and All-loving God, in whom the pious heart believes, made the world and us who live in it, with all our fine humanities and brave aspirations, the wisdom and the mercy which lift us up so high that we look down sadly and despairingly upon God our Creator's works. O for that rebuking word of St. Paul to chide our halting faith! “Shall the thing formed say unto Him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ?” What is it to thee, though the almighty and ever-blessed God has not seen fit to make all thy fellow-worms to be presently wise men, and saintly men, and happy men? Have faith in God, and when he deigns to tell thee, who but yesterday had not been called forth from nothingness, that, in this world, which naturally enough looks confused and strange to thee, all things are working together for good to those who love Him, believe and give thanks, and eat thy bread with a merry heart, and try to realize as once it was given to an over-anxious man to know, that as God took care of the world ages upon ages before thou wast in it, so it is likely he will be able to care for it now and evermore without thee, and to conduct it to its great issues when the places which have known thee shall know thee no more forever! So the Gospel bids us trust in God, and do good, and lean not upon our own understanding, or make knowledge the indispensable condition of peace. Thankfulness and joyfulness have been realized in times whose light, compared with that of our day, was but thick darkness. " If thou faint,” saith the Scripture, “ in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.” It is not what we see, but what we believe, that must sustain us. The Gospel is the light of our years, because it is the soul's deliverance from its worst enemy, — the enemy that threatens death. How can I keep festal time, some one may ask, when press upon me? and is it not the office of a wise piety to convict me more and more of sin ? Most certainly this is one function of the Gospel, but, thank God! not the only one, and not by virtue of this is it a Gospel indeed. The new life, which is by Christ, is gladdened by the persuasion that through him the penitent have obtained the forgiveness of sins, and it is enriched by an unfailing tide of love, flowing into the soul from the very fountain-head of living waters, which must needs bring fertility and beauty wherever it takes its way. A soul that is overcoming evil by the grace of Christ will be of good cheer, even though as yet the victory is by no means complete, and the contest threatens to last a lifetime. The Gospel was a cause of great joy, from the very first, to Jews and Gentiles who were able to receive it; for though it made them realize as they had never realized before the extent and the enormity of the world's degradation, it gave them new power to endure, new energy to labor, the faith and hope which save men in the darkest times, and make heathen ages days of miracles and of the kingdom of God. If the Gospel is a Gospel at all, it is something more than a threat of vengeance to be executed upon the sinner. It proclaims a Saviour. It saith, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people. Every true Christian fast will be followed by a Christian thanksgiving, and the day of rejoicing will be as bright as the day of penitence was dark. Religion does not make us sinners, and if its Law shows us the measure of our transgression, and so slays, its Christ suffers and forgives and inspires, and so we live again, and as we never lived before. A gloomy, ascetic stoicism, or a hardfeatured Puritanism, is not a genuine Christianity. If our life were purely and only tragic, the Creator would have hung the heavens with a funeral pall, and have sent the wind of the desert to consume the flowers, and have hushed all the birds of the air, save the illboding owl. Abraham was glad because he saw in the future the day of Christ; and now that the day is come, let us not change it into a night of weeping. They may be ages of conscientiousness, but they are not ages of faith, which allow no time and place for festivity, and conscientiousness without faith presently heightens into madness.
THE SUSPENSE AND RESTORATION OF FAITH.
We would bespeak a careful reading for the following extract from an article in the Episcopal Quarterly, by Rev. John Cotton Smith, late Assistant Minister on the Greene Foundation, Trinity Church, Boston, in whose removal to New York our city has sustained a very serious loss.
If we could have an Episcopal Church reconstructed according to the ideal herein set forth, there would be, we are confident, large bodies of Christians who would desire nothing more. But the good time is, we fear, far off.
“ A great difficulty in reference to a common understanding and reception of historic Christianity has arisen from the fact, that men have failed to distinguish between what they hold as a systematic statement of their theology, and what they hold as a simple statement of the two great facts of revealed religion, - the Fall and the Redemption. A system of theology, although it may be exceedingly desirable, is, to a great extent, a matter of opinion. It is not a simple statement of the truths of revelation, but there is in it a very large proportion of the human element of philosophy, and of conclusions dependent upon long trains of reasoning. Such systems, we admit, are exceedingly important, but they have been unwarrantably elevated into an importance to which they have no claim ; so that they have been held as of the essence of Christianity itself, and conformity to them required as a test of communion in the Christian Church. We have thus had an exhibition of the extraordinary spectacle of “ covenants of faith,” which required as a condition of membership in a Christian Church a belief in certain articles, which the very framers of the articles themselves would not claim to be essential to a saving faith in Christ. When men come to understand that there is a distinction to be made between a system of theology and a simple statement of the fundamental principles of Christianity, and that a man may hold his particular system of theology without having a Church committed to it, and may retain his connection with historic Christianity by the reception of these universally acknowledged fundamental truths ; then we shall find that a union upon the basis of historic Christianity is something practicable and likely to be attained. But so long as matters of opinion are made as important as matters of faith, and the deductions of human reason are considered as bind
ing as the simple statements of revelation, just so long will it be impossible to bring historic Christianity into its proper place, as the doctrinal system of the Universal Church. Historic Christianity indorses no elaborate theological systems. It knows only the simplest elements of the Christian faith.
“ In what we have said of historic Christianity we shall not be understood as discrediting in the slightest degree the great Protestant principles, that the Scriptures are the only Rule of Faith, and that the right of private judgment is to be maintained. Each one must be free to find his own creed in the Word of God; but it is his privilege certainly, if he chooses to do so, to interpret the Scriptures by the light, and confirm his own judgment by the testimony of all ages of the Christian Church.
“ There would be no difficulty in determining what the fundamental principles of Christianity are, if it was made a question simply of the interpretation of the Scriptures; or what is the testimony of historic Christianity, if the question were made one merely of history. But, beside this, we are to inquire what materials are within our reach out of which may be constructed the external form of the Church of the Future. The grand conditions which, upon Dr. Bellows's general principles, must be essential to this form, are, that it shall impose no unnecessary restrictions; and that it shall have its roots in existing institutions, thus connecting it with the whole past of the Christian Church. The problem is to construct, or to find already constructed, an organization by which these conditions shall be satisfied, and in which historic Christianity may be or is already enshrined.
“ The business of constructing a Catholic Church one would think to be, in this age of the world, a well-nigh hopeless undertaking. Dr. Bellows has no expectation of accomplishing it. The fact is, if there is not a Catholic Church already, we never shall have one, and a common basis of union, in a living body, will be forever impossible.
“We are to seek, therefore, for the elements of it in what already exists. Our search is to be made among existing institutions to find, if possible, the germ of historic Christianity in a Catholic Church. Dr. Bellows furnishes us with some valuable assistance in this respect by intimating where the nearest approach is made to a satisfaction of the great want wbich he has so eloquently described. We take his own words. In the Sequel to the Suspense of Faith he says: