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Another cause, tending to rob the pulpit of its power is, as we believe, what is commonly called “ the spirit of the age.” Formerly the social state was more quiescent. Business was transacted with less intensity of action. Men were content with moderate gains, and slow advances towards wealth. Christians were more contemplative; read more solid works, thought more, prayed more. They had more time, and they took more, for these duties. Religion was then a subject of healthful excitement. It was the great topic. Now it is not religion, certainly not in its highest sense ; no, it is the world. It is improvement, politics, railroad and steam communication. The outward, not the inward, is the cause of excitement now, and keeps the mind under a tension which almost precludes the possibility of calm reflection.
Place a community, so excited, under the gospel, and how much interest will they feel in its announcement ? Give them but one day in seven to think of eternal things, while the rest of the week is occupied in intense worldly excitement, and how little chance has the pulpit to influence them? But what has this to do with the ministry ? some may ask. And why should the preacher be affected by it? The question shows an ignorance of human nature. The minister does feel it, and suffers from it. By a sort of social contagion, he is himself unfavorably excited. He goes into the pulpit, under the disheartening thought, too, that his people are not there to be interested in his great theme; that they will be glad when the Sabbath sun has set, and the rattling of Mammon's car is again heard on its impetuous career. Every thing that disheartens the minister, breaks the power of the pulpit. He cannot speak with earnestness when the minds of his hearers are so jaded and listless, that they cannot be aroused by his preaching. It may be replied, that then should the minister be yet more earnest ? Here, again, too little account is made of human weakness. Ministers are not angels. They are men of like passions with others; and they cannot withstand the pressure, if long continued, of such dispiriting circumstances. The whole state of things is spiritually unhealthy. There is much done to carry the light of religion into regions of darkness. Catching the spirit of the age, associated effort is doing much to sow the good seed of the Word. Great meetings are held, and animated addresses are made. But it is doubtful if all this advances the power of the pulpit. That, in our opinion, requires a more contemplative, studious, and devotional state of the church. More real and deeper Christian experience is required; more searchings of heart; more prayerful study of God's word; more hungering for the bread, and thirsting for the water, of life. The excitement in minister and hearers must be more inward; he, like Moses, conversing with God; and they, like Israel, ready to hear what God the Lord will speak.
Some have contended that the pulpit must take the tone of the times; that the preacher, accommodating himself to this bustling age, must speak, and pray, and exhort, in true business-like style. All must be prompt, lively, and even amusing. But if the age is wrong, and the inundation of worldly excitement is so great that medical men say it is too much even for the physical frame, then, surely, ministers should use what influence they have to correct the evil. The tendency now is to sweep away the old land-marks of truth. The cry is for novelties, for excitement's sake. Shall such an unhealthful tendency be stimulated? Or ought not, rather, an effort to be made to bring the people back to a sounder state of mind. Above all, let the moral dignity of the pulpit be kept up by severe study, well prepared sermons, and solid gospel truth uttered in tones of deep earnestness; trusting in God that the day will yet come, when men will see and feel the utter vanity of all this worldly excitement. Let not the ministry accommodate itself to this feverish thirst for novelties. Old truths, as they are called, have lost none of their real weight; nor is there
any lack of interest in them, among those whose hearts the Lord has touched. The word of God is not susceptible of change. It endureth forever. Yes; amid the wild confusions and overturnings of the times, thanks be to God, there is one thing that endures. This is our sheet-anchor amid the storm; and we watch the conflicting elements in the assurance that a calmer scene will succeed; when, truth, like the day star, shall shine forth in its purity and brightness.
But we have said enough on this subject for the present; and conclude by acknowledging our obligation to the authors of the excellent works which have elicited these remarks; and with recommending their careful perusal by every minister of the gospel and by every candidate for the sacred office, who covets the gifts of earnestness and power in the pulpit.
The Philosophy of Religion. By J. D. Morell, A. M., Author
of the History of Modern Philosophy, etc. New York. 1849. .
WE learn from the North British Review, that the author of this work was once a student with the celebrated Dr. Wardlaw. We are quite sure that he did not derive from him, the germs of this work. Indeed it requires but a glance at the work to discover that Schleiermacher is the oracle of Morell. “ If there be one mind,” these are his own words, “whose personality may have impressed itself more than any other upon my own, in tracing out the whole course of the following treatise, it is assuredly
of the revered' Schleiermacher ; indeed, the analysis of the idea of religion, and its reference to the absolute feeling of dependance, is taken substantially out of his great work, the • Glaubenslehre.' That God would send such a mind, and such a heart, to shed their influence upon ourselves, and guide us from the barren region of mere logical forms, into the hallowed paths of a divine life, is the best wish I can breathe for the true wel fare of every religious community in our land.”
In a work upon the philosophy of religion, it is of the highest consequence to know what religion is. In defining this fundamental idea, Morell, as above intimated, follows Schleiermacher. But Schleiermacher, in forming his definition, was aiming at a union of men in religious fellowship without reference to doctrinal views. Whether he was a pantheist himself, or not, he aimed at uniting in religious fellowship, pantheists and theists. Hence he framed a definition adapted to include them.
The essence of religion, according to this definition, is a eling of absolute dependence upon infinite power.
“In describing this absolute sense of dependence, as containing the essential element of religion, we do not mean that this alone, without the cooperation of the other faculties, would give rise to the religious life. To do this there must be intelligence there must be activity — there must be, in short, all the other elements of human nature. But what we mean is this — that the sense of dependence accompanying all our mental operations gives them the peculiar hue of piety. Thinking alone cannot be religious; but thinking, accompanied by a sense of dependence on the infinite reason is religious thought. Activity alone cannot be religious; but activity carried on under a sense of absolute dependence upon infinite power is religious action. In a word, it is this peculiar mode of feeling pervading all our powers, faculties, and inward phenomena, which gives them a religious character; so that we may correctly say that the essence of religion lies exactly here."
Is it not a very remarkable fact, that what is here called the very essence of religion omits all that is described as true religion in the word of God ?
When our Saviour was called on to state the fundamental element of true religion, he did not specify an absolute sense of dependence on infinite power, but love, - supreme love to God, and impartial love to man. In like manner, the apostle Paul assures us, that the fulfilling of the law is love.
But the sense of absolute dependence on infinite power, by no means involves love. Nay, it may coexist with fear and hatred of that power. The devils, we are told, believe that there is one God, and tremble. Doubtless they have a deep sense of their absolute dependence on him; why else should they tremble ? Have they then the essence of all religion ? Nay,
“ The devils know and tremble too ;
But devils cannot love."
It is indeed true, that inasmuch as God is infinite, and creatures are finite, the mind of man cannot come into its true rela. tionship to him without a sense of dependence. This qualifies and predisposes the mind to rely on God as its strength and support. But such reliance is never properly exercised, except under the yuidance and influence of love ; and love presupposes, and is based upon, clear views of the character of God. Indeed Mr. Morell, as we shall soon see, cannot give an idea of Christianity without introducing love. It must be conceded that where love is absent, man's dependant nature impels him to seek support and protection from powers of various kinds, deemed superior to himself. Thus the various forms of idolatrous worship originated. All these too are called by the name religion, and of these the sense of dependence may be the essence. But of the true religion, it is not the essence, but love. It may be rightly said, that the essence of all false religion is a sense of dependence, but of all true religion it is love.
From considering the nature of religion in general, Mr. Morell proceeds to consider the essence of Christianity. So far as he goes he certainly includes important elements of Christianity. It presupposes, he informs us, the moral degradation of man, and his bondage to evil; a total disorganization both of the moral and religious nature; a fearful abuse of human freedom on the one side, and of religious obligation on the other.” The conscious removal of this state and the restoration of perfect moral freedom, harmonized with a consciousness of absolute dependence by the love of God, is the designed effect of Christianity, and this is to be accomplished through Jesus Christ, as a personal Redeemer. Here, as before stated, we see that he cannot define Christianity without introducing love as its essential element. He holds to the historical verities of Christ's life, and to redemption, whaterer is meant by it, exclusively through him. He enters no farther than this into doctrinal detail. The person of Christ, bis divinity, his atonement, the trinity, and similar topics, are not at all noticed. Thus he sums up the matter:
“Wherever absolute dependence and perfect freedom are reconciled by love to God, there we recognize the redemption which has been completed by Christ; and wherever this redemption is honestly accepted as the middle point of our religious life, there we recognize the religion of perfect resignation, perfect freedom, and perfect love. There may be many variations in detail, many degrees of clearness in the perception of Christian ideas, many dogmatic peculiarities occasioned by education, by temperament, or by other circumstances; but, in the two definitions we have given, the essential elements of Christianity are involved. He whose religious life is grounded upon the consciousness of the redemption of the world, and consequently of himself through Jesus Christ, and who exhibits the reality of this life by resignation to the will of God, joyous freedom in serving him, and the expansive spirit of love — this man, be his minor peculiarities what they may, we venture to denominate - A Christian."
He proceeds, in the fifth chapter, to consider Revelation. Here he indicates a degree of looseness and inaccuracy quite discreditable to a philosophical writer of his pretensions.
He defines revelation, as if it were a mode of mental action in a recipient of truth, asserting that it is “a mode of intelligence." To explain this, he states that it is not the logical mode of perceiving truth, that is, by definition, statement, or reasoning, but the intuitional mode, that is, a direct knowledge, through the interior eye of consciousness, of higher and more spiritual realities.”
According to this view, a body of truth communicated by God in human language, concerning persons and events lying beyond