« VorigeDoorgaan »
INFLUENCE OF THE BIBLE ON INTEL- So in regard to the Bible, it is LECTUAL CHARACTER.
plain, as has already been hinted,
that the primary object of God, in It is the principal object of the revealing his character and purBible, no doubt, to improve the poses, the laws of his spiritual kingmoral, not the intellectual, part of dom, and the wonderfal apparatus man ; to teach the way to heaven, of redemption which his wisdom not literature and science. Still devised, was to prepare the way for it is evident, I think, that the Bible depraved man to become holy and exerts upon the mental faculties a meet for heaven, and this essential powerful and valuable influence, benefit of revelation, is within the though this influence is merely in- reach of the humblest capacity, of cidental to its great and primary one that can cope to no advantage object. This incidental influence with what is deep and mysterious, of the Bible, is analagous to what we precisely as the unlearned yeoman find in the physical world. It is ac- can derive from the earth a plentiful knowledged that the physical world harvest, and feel all the gratitude exerts upon the human mind an in- such a blessing demands, while he calculable influence, by means of knows nothing of the demonstrations the subjects and materials for sci- of Natural Philosophy. ence which it furnishes. But no But beside this obvious and esone supposes, that it was the main sential advantage, as in the natural, design for which the physical uni- so in the moral world, there is anverse was created, that these sub- other benefit less obvious and essenjects and materials might be furnish- tial, which should not be passed ed, but rather, so far as we can see, over in our estimate of the sacred that a theatre might be prepared, volume, to wit, the valuable materiupon which rational beings might be als which it furnishes for the elevasustained, and that moral character tion and improvement of the intelunfolded and proved, upon which lectual faculties. It is the great should be awarded the destiny of excellence of revelation, that while their future being ; and in regard to it brings down to the level of the men, it evidently answered as well feeblest minds all its important and as it does now, this essential pur essential blessings, it at the same pose of its creation, before Coper- time contains that, upon which the nicus demonstrated the true theory mightiest intellect may pleasurably of the planetary system, or Newton and profitably bend all its energies developed those laws which bind through time, perhaps through etertogether and regulate it, or any prin- nity. A man may not only expericiples whatever, of science had been ence all the the practical benefits of derived from physical phenomena. the truths of the gospel, he may go Vol. I.--No. IV.
farther and by studying them as a sci- jects, in short, the noblest and most ence, clearing away as far as he can elevating that can employ the rationthe difficulties associated with them, al powers of man. and forming them into a connected There is another respect in which and defensible theology, he may the Bible may be made highly benmake them highly subservient to the eficial to the mind ; that is, in the mprovement of his mind. And I improvement of a rhetorical taste. can see no reason why the study of The rhetoricalmerits of the Bible, the Bible in respect to its theology, as is well known, have in former may not be made to contribute as times, been almost universally neg. much to the strengthening of the lected, perhaps unknown. But the intellectual faculties, as the study labours of later critics have ascerof the mathematics or natural philo- tained that the sacred volume well sophy, since it calls these same deserves the attention of the schofaculties into equally vigorous ex- lar, as containing the finest speciercise. All will admit that it tends mens of rhetorical merit that can be most effectually to the improve- found in the whole range of literament of the mind to deduce and ture. They have discovered that embody into demonstrative science it contains a poetry replete with evthe laws of the physical world, and ery perfection and sympathy that what possible reason can be alleg. can give poetry access to the heart, ed, that it is not equally beneficial and though written anterior to art, to the mind, to deduce and embody yet possessing every characteristic the principles of the moral world, of thought and style, which the into their appropriate science? If most rigid rhetoric could demand; a it gives scope and expansion to the poetry which, in every important intellectual faculties, to labour excellence, as much surpasses the through the demonstrations of an most finished specimens of Grecian intricate astronomy, to attain an literature, as the precepts of scripacquaintance with those principles ture transcend in value, the ineffi. which bind together and regulate cient ethics of her wisest philosothe universe of matter, why does phers. This assertion I know will it not give to these same faculties be deemed by many, wild and exequal, yea greater scope and ex- travagant. But it is made upon the pansion, to derive from the Bible authority of men preeminent as the sublime system of theology their age, for learning and taste, therein contained, which would be And the truth of it will doubtless be to develope the elements of those more extensively felt and acknowlaws which bind together the whole ledged, according as the real merimmensity of moral and imperish- its of sacred poetry are more fully able being. Indeed, may I not say unfolded, taste becomes more corthat it would require a mind of as rect and healthful, and the usages great power and as sure movement of a collateral antiquity are better to deduce from the sacred oracles a understood. perfect theology, as it did to write Now the sentiment that a judi. the Principia ; for this would be do- cious study of poetry imparts a valing in the more hidden and moral uable grace and elegance to the world, what Newton did in the Na- mind, and increases its power not tural. Here then, is a field upon only to please, but to instruct and which the mind, in every stage of its impress, needs no illustration. Evstrength, may put forth all its pow. ery rhetorician, in directing the best ers, - problems of indeed hard solu- method of acquiring the art of a tion-laws and principles truly diffi- correct and polished style, and the cult to be stated and applied-sub- power of an ascendency over the
feelings and actions of others, equal propriety, as their rhetorical sends us immediately to Shakspeare influence is as favourable as that of and Milton and Pope. The won the poetical parts, but my limits derful influence of the writings of will not permit. Homer on the subsequent litera Another way, and the last I shall ture of Greece, is known to all. mention, in which the Bible ope. The Illiad was the very rhetoric rates in raising the intellectual of those illustrious writers and character, is, by means of those speakers who adorned the brightest stupendous scenes which it lays day of her, learning and arts. Now open to faith, especially of those if Homer, and Shakspeare, and great events which it relates and preMilton, exert such an influence, dicts. The influence of great physwhy not the sacred poets, as it is ical objects upon mental character, confessed that their writings pos- is by all acknowledged to be valuasess excellences of a still higher ble and exalting. Minds of scope order. Plainly they would, were and sensibility, as they look upward they studied with equal zeal and to the heavens cannot but feel a diligence : yes, the student would sympathetic expansion to the imcome to the perusal of them, with a mensity around. Events too of taste corrected by piety; would feel vast temporal moment have still the exalting power of this species of more effect. Great political exipoetry, of thoughts elevating as gences, it is remarked, usually those of eternity, of beauties en- elevate and prepare for illustrious chanting, like the rainbow of the efforts the minds of those who conheavens.
template much and with feeling. Amongst many advantages, sa- The French Revolution had this cred poetry possesses one that is effect upon thousands in this counvery important. Other poets in try and in England. Burke never the midst of much that enriches wrote so much like a giant, as he and chastens the mind, mingle did, when he marshalled his invinmuch too that carries poison and cible mind against a “ Regicide death to the moral feelings and sym- Race.” The conception and conpathies. But all in the Bible is in- templation of our national indevigorating, and pure, and health. pendence had a powerful intellectgiving. Whilst reading other poets, val influence upon all those who we are indeed in a bright and beau. had souls to apprehend the magnitiful world, yet over the richness of tude and glory of the project. its landscape, and on the softness of Never on any other occasion, did its breeze, there may float the Jefferson exhibit such wonderful deadly contagion. But when perg- energy of mind, as when he consing the poetry of scripture, we ceived and sketched that memorastand as it were, on a command ble document which separated this ing eminence, where we inhale a country from England; or Pahealthful atmosphere, and behold trick Henry speak with such overaround us a broader horizon of whelming power as he did upon magnificence and beauty. Thus that momentous question, war or the direct tendency of this species chains. Indeed it is a common reof poetry, is to store the mind with mark, that great political crises, images of the grand and beautiful, always elicit great talents, rather to work upon it a delicate refine- they create them. Multitudes on ment, and at the same time to give such occasions start up from the it the flush and symmetry of health. lethargy of a mere physical existOther portions and kinds of sacred ence, and display to the world an. composition might be noticed with unaccountable greatness and ener.
gy of character. The reason is, whelming realities of eternity. Ev. such events awaken and keep ery person must have observed, for awake all the faculties of the mind, doubtless it accords with the expepresent one quickening, one over- rience of all, that whenever under powering idea upon which the soul any circumstances, he has had pemay fix and glow and expand. On culiarly vivid apprehensions of those a similar principle it appears to me sublime scenes and events which the religion of the Bible operates in are predicted in the Bible, and exalting the intellectual character which we must all witness, then it of those who embrace it in its spirit, is that he has felt a greatness of and who are in the least susceptible conception, a reach and power of of such generous and expanding in thought, of which, perhaps he is fluences. The gospel, we know, not capable at any other time. The lays open to our faith, a few events reason of this is obvious. Moments of inconceivable interest and mag- of an uncommon intellectual capanitude. Of these, I shall select for city are always the result of an unthe illustration of my views only usual excitement of the feelings, one, but one however, which, in the and surely no events within the sublimity of the circumstances that compass of our knowledge, are fitwill attend it, in interests involved, ted to awaken such lofty emotions, and in consequences resulting, as such intensity of mental excitemuch transcends the mightiest po- ment, as some of those which have litical events, as the heavens are been mentioned. Now let a man higher than the earth. I refer to have a faith that will in a measure that amazing era in eternity, the perpetuate these vivid and affecting consummation of the meditorial dis- apprehensions of the events alluded pensation. The circumstances at- to, and the consequent increase of tending, will be the resurrection of intellectual power will also be conthe dead, the conflagration of the tinued. Examples illustrative of material universe, and the final this point, might be adduced. We judgment, and the consequences, have all seen men of ordinary menthe consummation of the doom of tal endowments, but who, thinking angels and of men. Even the exter- and acting under a vivid and affectnal accompaniments of this awful ing sense of the great truths and event, cannot but have a powerful approaching events of the gospel, mental effect upon a man of strong have exhibited a largeness of faith and vigorous imagination. view, an eloquence of appeal, and Perhaps in no other circumstances a power of accomplishment, which is the Christian who has a soul far surpassed any thing manifested that can be moved, sensible of such by some of their more gifted, but intellectual elevation, such a thrill- less excited associates ing consciousness of mental grand- But my limits will not permit me eur and strength, as when he stands to pursue this topic farther, nor to by an open grave, and with a faith take any other views of this interwhich for the moment annihilates esting subject. Various and inestime, feels the great crisis to be timable is the influence of the saclose upon him, when all who cred volume upon the mind. It are in their graves shall hear the raises at once, the intellectual voice of the Son of Man, and come character of that community where forth. At such a time, I suppose it is read and revered. It gives the mind has something of that tow- enlarged and corrected intelligence ering and excursive energy, which to that man who thoroughly imit will have in perfection, at that bues his mind with its invaluable amazing moment when it shall first contents; and though it does not open its vision upon the over- professedly teach him science and
literature, yet he derives much edge of the truth. We read of from it akin to these of equally val- hypocrites and false professors in uable influence. He sees there the scripture, but never of their conphilosophy of a perfect adaption of version. I cannot conceive of a means to an end ; a poetry of un- more perilous situation than that equalled richness and beauty ; an of one who has made a profession eloquence adequate to bring back of religion unsupported by a good an alienated world to the love and hope through grace, of one who, fellowship of God. Especially does instead of making God his hope, the high destiny which the Bible makes hope his God. There is opens before him, provided it exerts among all classes of thinking and upon him its legitimate moral influ- conscientious persons, a well grounence, swell his bosom with the no- ded apprehension of entering the blest moral conceptions, as he church without sufficient evidence looks forward from this dark thresh- of a spiritual, saving change. old of his being, into a bright and I will point out some of the unclouded eternity, where he will grounds of fear, that such persons range without obstruction over the will die in their sins. There is obwide fields of knowledge, and viously a difference in point of danwhere intuition will feed the eager ger, between those who are perand admiring soul. DALETH. suaded prematurely to assume so
great a responsibility, through the injudicious solicitude of friends,
and those who presumptuously or THE DANGER OF MAKING A PROFES- insincerely take the vows of God SION OF RELIGION WITHOUT PI- upon them. In both cases howev.
er, the hazard is great.
1. There is a fancied security atA PURE church is not to be ex- tending an enrollment of our names pected on earth. Even in the in the visible church, which is time of the Apostles, when those greatly to be lamented and exceedwho received the keys of the king- ingly dangerous. The pastor and dom of heaven from Christ himself, church have signified their approbawere ministers, persons obtained tion; and their acceptance has put access to the communion table, to rest any previous fears, and for and were admitted to sealing or- a time at least, quieted, if not redinances, who had not the love of moved, anxiety and doubt. How God. We have reason to believe is the vain confidence and false there will be always tares among peace of such professors to be shathe wheat; foolish will be found ken ?-Is vice attacked ? The mingled with wise virgins; the force of education, or the apathy of vile will be gathered with the pre- natural constitution, or respect for cious in the gospel net. “Many' character, keeps them from vicious we are told, " in the last day, will habits. Is hypocrisy exposed and say, Lord, Lord, open to us, who denounced? They are not aware will be met with this appalling an- of an intention to deceive; or of swer, I never knew you. From any guilt contracted by the heartthe description given of them, it less performance of duty. Any atis evident, professors of religion tempt on the part of the preacher are intended.
to fasten conviction on the conMy position is, that very few of science, to break up false hopes, those who are received among the or to produce deep and godly sorvisible followers of Christ without row, proves abortive ; the heart is grace are ever brought to a knowl- protected by a shield which no