Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

of the languages of the earth, and the passage of Scripture in reference to this bears another signification which has been sometimes assigned to it, that "God confounded their works;"-still we say, from this one original tongue, there may easily have emerged all the languages on the face of our earth. When we consider the great changes that have taken place in modern languages in a comparatively short sime, how easy would it be for a language to be entirely changed, when there was almost no communication between different countries.

On the supposition that language is of human, origin, we should be inclined to favor the former of these hypothesis, although we confess, from the very able treatise on this subject which was delivered a few weeks ago from our humanity chair, we had almost been led to give the preference to the latter. Place a number of children in a room by themselves, say the advocates of the first hypothesis, and the first thing they would set about, would be, to give names to the objects around them. This, however, say those who hold by the other supposition, supposes that the children have been previously acquainted with language. Were it otherwise, no child would give a name to an object, until it had, in some way or other, affected his own person, and then he would name the object from its felt effects. Thus, it is said, he would call fire the burner, water the cooler, &c.

There is a difficulty, however, connected with this hypothesis, notwithstanding its plausibility, which would lead us, were we at all inclined to think language a human invention, to give the preference to the other. Before the child could make his companions understand what was meant by the

name burner, he must have first communicated to them the meaning of the verb to burn.

*

*

*

*

*

In the discussions of political economy, the subject of ecclesiastical establishments necessarily finds a place. Dr. Chalmers naturally and properly discusses them in his prelections. Though unacquainted with the arguments employed in his lectures to his class, those who have read his volumes on "Christian and Civic Economy," cannot be altogether ignorant of his views. Those volumes I have read with some attention, and greatly admire the ingenious and often conclusive reasonings of their eloquent and candid author on many of the points which he discusses. But I do not hesitate to say, that on his own principles as a political economist, he begs the question in regard to civil establishments of religion, he assumes what he ought first to have proved, and reasons on premises not sufficiently established. And, if certain data laid down by himself be incontrovertible, the defence, of such institutions is, in my opinion, rendered impracticable. If bounties and drawbacks are invariably injurious to commerce; if chartered companies and monopolies are destructive to the natural operations of enterprise and labor: if fair trade, and fair competition, ought to be allowed and encouraged in regard to all other things, I do not perceive how religion should be excluded from the same benefit. With the religious question I have here nothing to do; that rests on different principles, and must be met on different grounds. But I am not the only person who wishes most ardently that Dr.

Chalmers would fairly meet the subject on its true merits as a question of political economy. He will forgive me for saying, in this public manner, what I know to be the opinion of many of his own pupils, as well as of others, that he is called upon to do so: for, if his politico-economical principles are once firmly fixed in this country, they would do more to lessen and destroy the faith of the country in the necessity and beneficial tendency of church establishments, than any other thing.

I am led to make these observations, by finding among the papers of my young friend, a fragment on this subject, which refers to the views and reasonings of Dr. Chalmers, and which shows, while it shows no more, that they had not produced conviction on his mind. The truly catholic spirit of the writer is strongly marked; and I can only regret that the paper was left unfinished.

ON RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENTS.

In the history of nations, we often find that those states which had been united in the closest alliance by the approach of some common enemy, have no sooner succeeded in their efforts to repel him, than there have again burst forth between them those ancient feuds and dissentions which the common danger had for a while extinguished. And such too has been the case among different sects of Christians. The doctrines of Christianity are of such a nature, that in order to experience their efficacy we must judge of them for ourselves. They cannot, like algebra and political economy, be

transmitted unaltered from one mind to another. All those who give sufficient attention to a mathematical problem, however varied may be the conformation of their minds, will come exactly to the same conclusion. Such truths are not affected by the peculiar conformation of the mind through which they pass. But it is quite the reverse with the truths of Christianity. And, accordingly, though we may find many whose philosophical or political creed agrees in every iota, yet we know not if there can be found any two Christians whose theological views entirely coincide. Were every one

to resolve to hold communion with none but those whose theological creed in every point coincided with his own, there would in all likelihood, be in the Christian church, nearly as many sects as there are members.

They are only the externals of Christianity, however, about which Christians are divided; concerning those grand doctrines which distinguish it from every other religion, they are perfectly agreed. In times of persecution, accordingly, we find, that their petty differences are forgotten, and they rally with one accord to defend the bulwarks of their common faith. And no sooner was our land favored with the inestimable blessing of religious toleration, than religionists began to be divided into different sects or parties. This of itself, however distressing it may appear at first sight, we consider as a matter of rejoicing, rather than regret.

There seems to be a final cause in even this imperfection of our christian knowledge. There is a generous emulation thus maintained in the walks of Christianity, and a greater provoking of one another to good works, than if all were per

fectly agreed. But there is a spirit of sectarianism, which, in this state of things, is too apt to break forth among all parties,-a desire to magnify those matters about which Christians differ, and thereby to forget those sublimer truths concerning which they are agreed.

It must be matter of regret to every one of a really catholic spirit, and who has the interests of genuine religion seriously at heart, that so much has been said, and so much has been written about the merest trifles in the externals of Christianity, while those who have been keenest in the controversy have frequently been forgetful of those grander truths, which imparted to the matters about which they were contending, all their weight and all their importance. Insignificant and unimportant, however, as we believe these matters to be, when compared with the vital doctrines of Christianity; yet, viewed abstractly, or, in comparison of earthly things, we deem them of the highest and most serious import. While it seems most imperiously our duty to attend to the spiritual things of religion, it seems equally our duty not to neglect those external regulations which are intended to preserve the purity and spirituality of our faith.

Of all those inferior points about which Christians disagree, the question of religious establishments is perhaps the most important. We confess that, from our education, all our prejudices have been against church establishments; and it is, perhaps, on this account that that powerful argumentation, which has appeared so luminous and so satisfactory to others, has failed to produce upon our mind the same effect. It has very much enlightened, but it has not convinced us. We

« ПредишнаНапред »