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it shorn of its peculiarities to the mind of the world, because there are now, as there were at first, many who reject it for those peculiarities. How foolish, we say, is this, when it has won its way, and obtained its triumphs, and set itself up in the hearts and thinking of men as a controlling power, chiefly by what is peculiar to it and characteristic. Take away all this, and if you could still offer salvation to men, you would have cut the cord which binds man to the Gospel, you would have brought about the death of positive revealed religion.
3. The idea is therefore vain that the Gospel will be superseded in the progress of society by some more abstract religion, which shall retain its morality and throw away its facts. Some seem to think that civilization has a power to do good without Christianity. As the master said, in his foresight of the triumph of his religion, "now is the Prince of this world cast out," so say they, standing on the hilltop of this nineteenth century, "now is the Redeemer of the world cast out." He represents, they admit, the highest development of humanity, and his views are nearest to the truth. All religions have had some grains of truth in them; His has the most; but a time is coming and now is, when the world is become old and knowing enough to get along without revelation by a simple faith in the God of nature. Such is to be the worldreligion of the maturity of mankind.
There are two questions that arise before us here; oue whether the Gospel is true or not, the other whether, if it be discarded, any other religion will take its place among men— for that some one religion is to be universal, all signs show. With the first of these questions we are here not immediately concerned. If it be false, it must fall; if true, it will stand its ground, as it has stood its ground hitherto, against the attacb of its foes and the follies of its friends. And the man who rejects it must find it hard to account for its wonderful adaptation to all races and ages. Whence did falsehood get such a hold over mankind?
But the other question—what the world could do without the Gospel—what universal religion could take its place, deserves our attention, and indeed claims it for a longer time than we can now spare. Let us, as it regards this question, briefly consider one or two points.
First. Such a new religion must be a philosophy, another revelation being out of the question. Now it is probable, if not certain, that the loss of authority and of vivid impressiveness, which would arise from putting hnman dogmas in the place of the life of a divine teacher, would be utterly irreparable. Religion after that would lie fainting in the dust. Who that considers the cravings of man disclosed by all mythology for a connection with heaven, who that understands where the power of the Gospel lies, will doubt that the power of a religion depends on its being believed to state facts concerning God, and that as soon as men make a religion for themselves, it will lose its hold on them,—as soon as they have constructed an automaton pretending to have life, they will get behind the machinery, and laugh at it.
Secondly. What will be the conclusions of this new universal religion of man's devising? What will it lay down as certain? Will it teach the immortality of the soul? But the most advanced philosophy, that of Hegel, is so dark on that great point, that after the founder's death his school divided into two parts contending with one another—like Michael and the devil about the body of Moses—on this very question. Whether or not he taught the soul's immortality. Will it teach a providence and a plan in nature? But the positive philosophy ot Comte ignores final causes altogether. The foundations of the religion—or universal philosophy as we may call it—it would seem, must shrink to about the proportions of atheism.
Thirdly. The ideas of sin, repentance, redemption, immortality, are inwrought into the literature, art, life, and feelings of all Christian lands. They serve, in fact, as resting places for the intellect, sentiments, and hope of myriads. When a vacuum is created by the departure of the Gospel, what *hall fill it? Or could it ever thrust out the Gospel, unless it brought in something for men to rely upon, to hope from, to love and to fear?
Fourthly. Civilization and progress are words of jugglery, they are general terms of no meaning except as including the
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motive forces which lead man on to the standard of perfect manhood. These forces are religion, morals, social life, government, art, and science. The chief of these motive forces is religion. How is the world to get along without them any more than the most nicely furnis'ied locomotive can leave its place, or can go on safely without steam or a road? Would it not be as absurd to say that civilization consists in that advancement of society which will supersede the family and the state, as in that which will supersede the necessity of religion? Until civilization can create some new kind of force to perfect mankind, it must depend in no small degree for its perfection and spread on the moral powers called into being by the Gospel.
And, in fact, the highest civilization hitherto reached, contains within itself enormous disorders. Where great masses are crowded together as in large cities, extreme refinement gives to some an elegant sceptical worldliness, while close by them there are godless desperates, savages worse than the Pagans who live under simpler institutions. Will those cultivated men who are throwing religion away surpass Christians in the earnestness of doing good; and what will doing good mean, if God and immortality and the Gospel ideal of a perfect life and retribution are given up! Christianity was plainly intended to make men good; it does contain very strong motives to virtue and uprightness, and yet its influence is small, and hitherto upon a few. How, when its truths are denied and its motive power is stopped, can there be any better state of things? They are bound to say, who are busy in hastening on such an era.
Until, then, there are signs more than we have now, that some new cause or combination of causes will perfect man and society, we will believe that the renovation of the world is laid in the hands of the Gospel. And we will hope in it, as the grand catholicon, as the tree of life which yields her fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Article VI.—THE PROPRIETIES OF THE PULPIT.
There are those who would settle all questions of taste or decorum on which they are either in a minority or indifferent, by the ancient maxim, "De gustibus" &c., meaning thus to deny all jurisdiction and leave a decision impossible. The maxim justly imports that, as in respect to physical appetite, so in art, literature, and social life, there are questions which must be left to individual partialities. Men cannot be expected to agree, and therefore ought not to dispute about them. But the ancient critic did not hold that there is no standard of good taste, or that there can be no approximation to harmony among cultivated minds, and therefore every one ought to abide by his own practice according to his preference, or in the absence of any preference. By common acknowledgment, there is such a thing as we call good taste, decorum, or, especially in respect to graver or more sacred occasions, propriety. It has its foundation in the nature of things and the natural susceptibilities of the human mind as cultivated and matured. It has its own canons of criticism. Questions of this sort may be reasonably discussed, and with the advantage of time and experience, differing minds may arrive at common perceptions and conclusions on these subjects as generally as on graver matters of truth or obligation. The concurrent, lasting judgment of educated persons conversant with the subject in view, must form a legitimate tribunal. There is no more warrant for saying there is no such thing as propriety, because all are not agreed upon it, than for saying the same of truth. The pretense is no better than a flimsy refuge for conceit, vanity, and presumption. That there is a propriety to be ascertained and regarded in the most important work we can have to do, even in the public worship of God, is acknowledged in the apostle's precept: "Let all things be done decently and in order."* There is a decency, an order, in the services of a Christian assembly, which the writer there has in view; a character, that is suitable and becoming ; the worshipers must judge, and may learn, what it is; and no individual is authorized to violate or overlook it in carrying out his separate partiality.
* 1 Cor. xiv., 40.
The proprieties of the church, then, are those considerations that serve to determine what is proper, what is decent, or becoming, in the services of the church. As the persons concerned are the minister and the people, the subject may relate especially to the pulpit or to the pews. Confining ourselves now to one only, we inquire as to the proprieties of the pnlpit. And, not to cover too much ground, we here refer only to the conduct of the devotional services of a Christian assembly.
In the greater part of Christendom, public prayer is in prescribed forms. Even there the effect of the service depends much on the spirit and the manner in which it is performed. But wherever, as in most Protestant congregations, the officiating minister is required to compose the prayers as well as the sermon, his office becomes more difficult and responsible than is commonly imagined. To introduce the right thoughts in the right language, with due regard to all the circumstances of the occasion, requires qualifications not to be presumed in the majority of men,—sensibility and sympathy, imagination, and memory, and judgment, with good general powers, in unusual measure and combination. High excellence here demands rarer resources than in preaching. The wonder is not that the service is so often unsatisfactory, but that it is no worse, especially since candidates for the ministry seldom appreciate its importance, or approach it with the requisite preparation.
One principal consideration determining the nature of public worship, and therefore its proprieties, is this, that it is addressed directly to God. He is its object, and as such is immediately contemplated in the act. It is not so with all duties or good works, some of them necessarily occupying the mind to the present exclusion of thoughts of divine things. It is not Bo even with preaching, which therefore has other laws. To say that all actions ought to be a kind of worship, is only a rhetorical figure for setting forth the tribute He receives from obedience.