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SPLITTING HAIRS. Gibbon has a characteristic sneer at the Nicene distinction which marked the radical and infinite difference between the Orthodox and the Arians. “The profane of every age have derided the furious contests which the difference of a single diptbong excited between the Homoousians and the Homoiousians." But the change to an iota here robs Christ of his divinity, the world of an atonement and redemption, and Christianity of any valuable peculiarity and vitality. “The difference of a single dipthong" results in the difference between Jonathan Edwards and Theodore Parker, as theologians, and between the evangelical and the liberal system of faith as seen to-day. It was quite a hair to split, and indifferent men, and dull, Darrow minds, would naturally deride the struggle over an iota.
It is so yet. The untutored and short sighted make light of great issues because made in small compass. They can not see beyond the narrow strait that Gibraltar covers, or foresee the harvest, shaking like Lebanon, in the handful of corn. They call it a wrangle over words and phrases only, with no real difference. A distinction between depravity of nature and of action is unmeaning and indifferent to them: whether God or man is supposed to make the soul holy, is of little account in their estimation, if only the man be holy.
All delicate, interior, primal distinctions are mere hair-splitting to them, though in these distinctions the student in history and philosophy sees systems toto coelo apart.
It has been fashionable, and still is, though decreasingly so since it reflects such discredit on one's acumen or sincerity, to call much theological discussion a mere dispute about words. Not being able to go back to the intricate sources where Calvinism and Arminianism diverge and found themselves separately, they turn from the dis-, cussion petulant, or reply to the arguments with a smile and a sneer, as if it were small work for Christian men. It is as if they should laugh at budding the seedlings of a year old, and say that real men would give their strength and grafting to full grown trees.
It may be very reasonable, at least natural, that men accustomed mostly to cleavers and pit-saws, should call all nice work, as in making microscopes and chronometers, hair-splitting. But scholarly and profound men, giving their strength to the vital interests of Christ's church, and seeing her through the ages of a varied experience, will do their noble work by guarding her creed and life against the iotas of heresy and apostasy.
VOL. VI.-OCTOBER, 1866.- No. 34.
MANY of the churches have just passed through revivals of wonderful interest and power. God has been teaching us as he does not teach his church once in a century. We have a word to say concerning the preaching and the preachers that God appoints, and the world demands. It seems to us that we have drifted away from the New Testament models, and need to come back, if we would realize the highest results of the Word. Our theme, in general terms, is that God is to convert men through men. If his word is the instrument, sanctified souls, under him, are his chief agents in wielding it. Both are defined and put in their true relation in our Saviour's ascension command to the church : “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature ; he that believeth shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned." A living church, in connection with the living word, is God's appointment to save the world.
Our inquiry then is, how is such a church to use such a word to accomplish its destined result? Our Lord's answer must be the true one, namely, preaching.
This is God's appointment, and nothing else can stand in its stead. “By the foolishness of preaching he is pleased to save them that believe." How much is included in this must be determined by the Scriptures themselves. And we can hardly
suppose that the Saviour used two separate words in relation to this subject without design, the one signifying to herald, the other to disciple. The two combined seem to render legitimate whatever is needful to bring the Gospel in its entireness, and in all the elements of its power, upon the soul. In heralding, the office of the voice is recognized in educating, magnetizing and moving the human mind, while in discipling, we have a broader term, covering all other influences, whether of word or deed, of life or death, which may carry the heart over to Christ. Preaching, then, in its broadest sense, we believe, is a true exhibition of the Gospel, either spoken, or acted. He preaches the Gospel who so presents it, in spoken discourse, that other minds see and feel its power, and he as truly preaches it who so lives it that his life is a living epistle of its truth and glory. The essential idea of preaching is the communication of divine truth to the minds of men ; and any channel is legitimate, through which that truth can be introduced to a human soul. Truth is the instrument in the work of conversion and sanctification, and we do not know that the Spirit ever exerts any influence on the mind of man except through the truth. Hence the necessity of preaching. And hence the reason why God has committed this treasure to earthern vessels, that the divinity of it may be more manifest, and its living power be more felt, and decisive. Unless we mistake, our analysis of preaching has been exceptionable. We have distinguished between its human side and its divine side. But the grounds of this distinction are rather apparent than real. Wherein is the voice of the preacher, who speaks as the Spirit gives him utterance, less the voice of God, than the Word itself which he expounds ? How then does it result, that preaching, in its true extent and idea, is not wholly a divine procedure? Grant that human organs are employed in its service; if they are chosen of God, and consecrated by heavenly grace, do they not convey divine treasures to a dying world? If God works through men to save men,
is the work any the less divine for the instrument which he employs. The course of history, throughout, shows that all God's gracious works, in this world, have been wrought through human agents. Prophet, psalmist, apostle, and saint, have been the agencies through which he has taught and acted. He has revealed himself to man in man, in a deeper and more tender significance, than in all suns and stars. He has spoken through the human voice, looked with unutterable love and pity through the human eye, and worn the human form as an “Isis vail to his divinity,” for the suffering of death. We do not say that God has touched the lips of his preachers, in the same sense as he did the lips of seer and evangelist, or that he dwells in every sanctified body as he did in the Son of Joseph and Mary, but we can not doubt that he is with them, and in them in a sense as vital and real.
The mightiest force in human society is personal influence, the power of soul on soul. Whether for good or for evil, we have no gauge to take its measure. The eye, and the voice, and the form, instinct with the living soul, wield forces which have enchained assemblies, put continents in commotion, and marshalled nations for the day of battle.
Instances of this are the glory of history. It is sufficient to name Mohammed, and Peter the Herrit, and Buonaparte. They had the power so to diffuse, so to impart themselves to other minds, as to master and wield them at pleasure. And this is the power of all superior minds, and the nature of all personal influence. Such a power God has used, and is yet to use more largely in his service. In the higher life yet to be attained, this is the power that shall muster the hosts of God, and lead them to the battle,
When God has designed to introduce a new force into society, he has made his man for the time, and endowed him with the power to lead other minds, as the moon leads the tidal wave of the sea." The secret of this power is not so much in orations spoken and poems written, perhaps, as in orations lived and poems acted. He who possesses it, has a power to breathe himself into other hearts, to inoculate other spirits with his own, to reach the springs of thought and affection, and touch them to his own soul's issues. the tone of the voice, the glance of the eye, the living presence, are the soul's signs, and symbols, and mediums. We need only to conceive the time when it shall please God to commit to the church, as a body, the power which he has entrusted to a few individuals to bring before the mind such moral fermentas
To such a man,
never heaved the planet before. Commit to the millions of our Christendom the fire, and love, and consecration, which filled the bosom of David, and made the martyrs, and you have a power which nothing evil could withstand, a spirit, before which wickedness would vanish like stubble in the flame.
We want preachers, then, not only sound in the faith, but preachers full of the Holy Ghost, and with a power to breathe out his influences into other souls. A preacher, to answer the ends of preaching, must have, in some sense, a power of selfimpartation. If he carries heavenly treasures, others will be enriched by them only as he has power to communicate them. Hence, after a personal experience of the truth, he needs a voice and an eye trained to utter all the soul's thoughts, and sympathies, and emotions. Without this he is like a dumb man trying to voice his feelings. In a system, therefore, which is mainly to accomplish its ends by souls acting on souls, which needs, as well for proclamation as for illustration, men who have experienced its renovating influence, and can give it expression through these human organs, we can not suppose that God has failed to make provision for its great necessity. And hence we are not surprised that he has exalted preaching to the place of honor, and thus has given truth the advantage of being borne to the world through souls made alive by its pover.
While, therefore, preaching sits king among the means which are to make the Gospel the power of God unto salvation, subordinate to it, and inseparable from it, are the mighty influences of a witnessing life. This, after all, is the vital element in all true preaching. There is something in truth, incarnated and warm with the breath of life, which invests it with a most winning grace and eloquence. A life, with the baptism of truth glittering upon its brow, wears a charm which it may not be easy to analyze, or define, but which is none the less felt and real. This is the charm of our Saviour's character, and which, by common consent, elevates him above all the sons of men. Purity, like an orb of light, rayed out from him its steady brightness above the brightness of the sun. The calm and lofty spirit within imaged itself on his brow of high, yet peaceful dignity, it mirrored its mysteries and glories in the depths of