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THE INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLE OF THE CHURCH.
the world of men. This goodness is His "head," and those knowledges are its strength. We also read, that "they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man; their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord, for I have redeemed them; . . they shall increase; . . and I will sow them among the people, and they shall remember me in far countries, and they shall live with their children, and turn again." (Zech. x. 7-9.) These things are said of Ephraim, because the subject treated of is concerning the restoration of the intellectual principle of the church. This is described as mighty, and rejoicing;—as being redeemed, and sown among the people;-as an excellence that will remember the Lord, live, and return; because such is the nature of this principle, and such are the advantages it is designed to experience and display.
It would be easy to enlarge these expositions, and to select other passages to illustrate this general idea; these, however, will be sufficient. But here it may be useful to explain what this principle is. By the intellectual principle of the church, we mean the understanding of its people so illustrated that it may clearly comprehend, from the teachings of the Word, those truths which are to be believed as the subjects of faith, also those virtues which are to be loved and done as the uses of charity. Faith, charity, and use, are three essentials of the church, and they must cohere together and constitute a one in the work of man's salvation; for faith without charity is dead, and charity without faith is blind; and if these graces are without the activity of use, they have no basis on which to rest. Thus the intellectual principle of which we are speaking, is not the ability to confirm any sentiment that may be drawn from the Word, but the capacity to perceive, before confirmation, what is good and true therein. A man may to some extent confirm from the letter of the Word any tenet which he may choose to invent: this may be evident from the heresies which are extant. Doubtless such heresies have been confirmed by those who accept them, and yet it may be evident that they are not true. Of two opposite conclusions one must of necessity be false; and the minds of those who confirm themselves in error are such that they will not see the truth. We may bring their errors to the brightest light of revelation, and yet they will not acknowledge that they are so. They will shut their eyes, and tell us that what they believe are holy things,— mysteries, for faith to accept, and not for reason to investigate.
How plain is it that in all such cases the intellectual principle of the church is lost. Some, indeed, suppose that they possess it because they can readily select and skilfully talk about passages from the Word which
apparently confirm the errors they have adopted, and also because, by these means, they can dexterously expose the heresies of others. But this supposition is a mistake. The office of the intellectual principle of the church is to perceive, and thence to acknowledge the truths of the Word; but to confirm a tenet is the effort and the ingenuity of the sensual mind. How plain is this! How frequently have such confirmation been undertaken by bad men,-men whose conduct has proved that they believed nothing of that which they have displayed so much ability to establish. Such persons do not properly possess even a rational principle. The wicked can, and sometimes do, reason and discourse upon the subjects of sense and science, morality and religion, the Scriptures and the church, with much cleverness and power; but how can they be said to possess a rational principle, when they are found to love and do those things which all just reason condemns? A principle is a living reality in man; it belongs to his love, and, therefore, the rational principle is that which manifests itself in enlightened acts of truth and virtue, and thus it is the excellence of a man's life which testifies to the existence of his rationality. Bad men, then, cannot have this principle; they merely acquire some materials which may be requisite for its formation, but when they reason, they simply draw those materials from their memory as a storehouse (and these they wield by some selfish love for some worldly end), and not from a rational principle considered as an enlightened and living reality. Bad men, viewed as to their interiors, and as to their relationship to the church and to heaven, are insane; yet it is a responsible insanity, because it springs out of a known and voluntary opposition to God and His kingdom.
Now, as the rational principle displays itself in an orderly life, so the intellectual principle manifests itself in orderly reason: this exists in, or belongs to, a higher region of the mind, and by means of it the man of the church is enabled to perceive, when he reads the Word, and carefully compares one portion of its teachings with another, what is thence to be believed as a matter of faith, and what is thence to be done as a matter of charity. Consequently, this principle is to be obtained only by those who sincerely desire to know the truth, not for the purpose of reputation or of glory, but for the sake of wisdom and of life.
The accuracy of these conclusions will be easily seen when it is remembered that it is the intellectual principle of the church of which we are speaking; thus, it is not the common intellect which pertains to things of the world, but that which belongs to a Divine institution,— that by which its regenerating members are enabled to perceive that the
THE INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLE OF THE CHURCH.
teachings of the church are true, not because they are conformable to science, or sanctioned by philosophy, but because they are put forth by the Word of God, especially in the unfoldings of its spiritual sense. Hence arises all mental illustration respecting spiritual things; and they who possess this principle are called "the children of light." The acquisition of it is gradual, like the attainment of every other grace; and during the process, the knowledges of truth will continue to advance in brightness; "the light of the moon will become as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun as the light of seven days." The notion that the things of faith were not intended for our comprehension will gradually recede, and men will come into a satisfactory understanding of them, so that those in whom the intellectual principle of the church is formed will be enabled to see, inwardly in themselves, what things are true, and what are not so; and they will accept them with a "yea," or reject them with a "nay," as the case may require.
Surely every one may see that this is a condition of mind which is proper to the men of the church, and much to be desired; but can we discover any remarkable displays of its existence in the Christianity of the churches as commonly portrayed? The candid mind confesses to doubts upon this subject. The doctrines which are taught are of such a nature that they stop inquiry at the threshold. They are not simply a thin veil behind which you may see some shadowy forms of truth, but they are as a thick curtain through which no eye can penetrate, and upon which "mystery " is written with breadth and boldness.
The doctrine concerning God and the Divine Trinity is said to be a mystery; so also is the Redemption which He effected, the Atonement which He made, the Salvation which He promotes, and the Judgment which He executes. If inquiry be made concerning the soul, where is the doctrine which teaches what it is? The creeds and the catechisms are silent; and if investigation be urged, it will be found that all knowledge respecting the continuation of its life, after the experience of bodily death, passes into obscurity and darkness. Who does not know that the doctrine of the Resurrection is always represented to be a mystery for Omnipotence to deal with? The beatitudes of heaven, and the myseries of hell, yea, the very nature and existence of these two kingdoms, are placed in the same category. Where within the walls of common Christianity is to be found a definition of that in which consists the divinity, the sanctity, and inspiration of the Word? Doubts may be heard, and disputations may be discovered; but how various, how differing, and how unsatisfactory are the expositions which appear! What is the faith-"the faith only "-which is said to justify, but a
mystery? and how mysterious is the doctrine which says that good works done after justification do not put away sin; and that good works done before justification are of the nature of sin. (Articles of Religion, 12, 13.)
Such is certainly the condition of the doctrines of popular Christianity; and within its pale all sorts of struggles are going on,-some to maintain one doctrine, some to repudiate another; some for the establishment of elaborate ceremonies, some for the adoption of stern simplicity; some for the institution of ecclesiastical dominion, some for the semi-restoration of the papacy; some for the security of high church principles, and some to make safe those which are low; so that, notwithstanding the purple and fine linen observable without, all is confusion within; and the reason is because Ephraim has been lost to Israel,—the intellectual principle has receded from the church, and passed into obscurity. It is utterly impossible that such results could have arisen if that principle had been retained. How plain is it, then, that the loss of that tribe was a type of the departure of this principle! There is a striking analogy between the two events. Ephraim was lost to Israel in consequence of the religious misconduct of its government, and the intellectual principle has been lost to Christianity in consequence of the ecclesiastical perversions of its rulers.
But it is predicted that a restoration should be accomplished,—that Ephraim should return, and that the watchman upon the mount should cry-" Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God." This, as it has been said, does not mean that the scattered races of Abraham's descendants will be gathered together, and be re-introduced into the land of Canaan. That idea is of the earth, earthy, and not of the Lord from heaven. It is admitted that whatever be its meaning, it must include some blessing; and this is to be experienced not in the external things of the world, but in the internal states of the church. We must look to states of the church for the realisation of the Divine prediction. The promise to restore the lost tribes of Israel will be fulfilled in its genuine sense, when all the lost truths of the Christian church are recovered. Ephraim will have gone up to Zion when the intellectual principle shall be restored to its activity. These are among the blessings referred to by those predictions. They teach us to hope for the development of some superior condition of the church with men, and thus to look forward to a period when "her light will be like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone clear as crystal."
Although we speak of those things as blessings to be enjoyed at some future day, yet we feel assured that they are even now, to some extent, in the process of being experienced; and that a Christian Church is
THE INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLE OF THE CHURCH.
now in the world-the church prefigured by the New Jerusalem in the Revelation-in which many of the lost truths of the Word are being restored to mankind, and in which they are allowed to enter intellectually into the things of faith. Every one acknowledges that the times in which we live are bright and brilliant with light and information which men have not enjoyed before. It is by the influences of this light that the professing church is made to feel the obscurity of her teachings;as this light advances towards the meridian of its purpose, those mysteries in the church to which we have adverted will disappear. When the sun rises, the fogs and mists disappear; when Egypt was in darkness, there was light in Goshen; and now, while the professing church is labouring in obscurity, the New Jerusalem is experiencing something of the sunshine.
Still it is encouraging to observe that some of the obscurity of which we have spoken is even now in the process of being removed from popular teachings, by the activity of a thousand providences. The evil must be felt before it can be remedied. The fermentations which are going on shew that some discomforts are being experienced; and these experiences will lead to efforts for their removal. Errors are loosing somewhat of that strong hold which they once had upon the popular mind, and truths are fastening upon it with greater firmness; they address themselves to reason, and intellect accepts them ;-thus the lost tribes are felt to be returning; Ephraim is in the process of being restored.
Every one knows that there is a higher degree of spiritual thought developed in society than that which prevailed in it a century ago; and who has not observed that a great variety of new and valuable discoveries have been presented to its attention? The church cannot escape the influences of these facts, nor can it elude the force of their teaching; hence it is that new truths are not unfrequently announced through the public ministration of her pulpits,-truths which once could not have been seen, and which, if talked about, would have been rejected. New views of religious doctrine, new developments of Scripture teaching, and many of them in beautiful conformity with genuine truth, are seen to be springing up in numerous departments of our common literature. And all this mental activity, this freshness of thought, those new perceptions and ideas, are inducing some evident changes in the public mind concerning the ideal character of Christianity. The introduction of freer and superior thought into the professing church, though it may not be of the highest kind, or refer to the profoundest subjects, is, nevertheless, a plain evidence to us that some of the lost tribes are returning to Canaan.