« PreviousContinue »
a man meet to receive grace from God;"* nor can they be lawfully proposed as a substitute for immediate repentance, or as a sort of minor obedience as good as the sinner can render, and as having a promise of special grace to help out their deficiency
12. Future State.
“God hath appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judyment is given of the Father; in which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons, that have lived upon earth, shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil."'+
On the basis of the preceding doctrines it is believed that biblical scholars generally, and the ministers of the different evangelical churches in our country, may agree to cooperate in the illustration and defence of the christian system. Such a coöperation, the editor is assured, is earnestly desired by many. To encourage an endeavor so worthy, and of so high promise of usefulness, a portion of the Repository will bereafter be devoted to discussions pertaining to these subjects.
Intimately connected with theological discussion, as interesting to the same classes of readers, is the consideration of the various forms of associated action for the spread of the gospel and the promotion of christian morals. The present is not only an age of light and knowledge, but of benevolent action. It is now generally conceded by Christians that all who are partakers of the gospel are bound to extend its blessings to others. The Scriptures are understood to impose upon the church, by which we mean the whole body of professing Christians, the solemn duty of communicating the means of salvation to the whole world. And each individual Christian is bound to sustain bis share of the common responsibility. It becomes therefore an intensely interesting question, for each individual to decide for himself, in what manner he may best exert his agen
Confession of Faith, Chap. xvi. Sec. 7. | Ibid. Chap. xxxiii. Sec. 1.
cy to promote, with the blessing of God, the coming of his kingdom, ihe conversion of the world.
In the primitive age of the christian church, and especially at the commencement of the christian dispensation, this question does not seen to have occasioned much perplexity. The church was then a feeble body of converted men in possession of the truth, for the benefit of the world. Their association was voluntary and cordial, and their discipline simple. They needed no extended Societies, such as those with which we now associate the idea of missions, because they were not then divided into sects, as Christians are at the present day. They were all united and the acknowledged business of the members of the church, both individually and collectively, was to promote the spread of the gospel by sustaining the apostles in their labors, and others whom they had enlisted in the same service. They pursued their work with a common sympathy, and in the most free and unrestrained manner. They seem to have felt at full liberty to avail themselves of every expedient, whether by individual or associated action, to do the best they could. The simple principle of individual dedication to God, which is so directly inculcated in the language of the New Testament, and so strikingly exhibited in the example of the primitive Christians, relieved them from all embarrassment on this subject. The same principle, were it universally cherished by Christians now, might prove equally efficacious. Let a man imbibe this principle, and it seems to us, that the Bible would say to him, -—“ follow it out—act upon it-try what you can do—do it faithfully, and in the best way you can, that by all means you may save some.'
This position, it is believed, lays a foundation for the right of voluntary Societies for useful purposes, in all ages. Each individual not only possesses the right, but is under a solemn obligation to judge for bimself in what manner he ought to exert his agency to promote the salvation of his fellow men. Yet he may not act alone.
He occupies a condition of important social relations and influences. He is therefore under social, as well as individual responsibilities; and if, by associating with others in extended measures for the benefit of the whole race of men, be may hope to accomplish more than by the separate exertion of his individual agency, he is bound thus to associate. But the simple act of association with others, for such purposes, is not his only duty. There are various existing and possible forms of association, which are submitted to his free choice. From among these be is bound to select and adopt that which he judges to be best adapted to promote the great end of his bigh endeavors as a Christian. If he judges that, in the present condition of the church and of the world, it is the duty of each denomination of professing Christians to act by themselves in all things, without conference or coöperation with other denominations, and to conduct their missions under the exclusive control of their own ecclesiastical courts, he has, doubtless, a right so to judge, and to act accordingly. His choosing, however, to be thus associated is voluntary, and he is individually responsible for the results of bis choice, in this respect as well as in all others. If, on the other hand, his opinion be that sectarian organizations, thus controlled and directed, are adverse to the best and most effective exercise of the true spirit of missions,-if he conscientiously believe that the great work of the world's conversion requires the united and concentrated action of all who desire and pray for its accomplishment, he has as clear a right so to judge and to promote such a union among Christians by associating with others, like-minded, of all denominations, irrespective of their denominational preferences in regard to church order and discipline. No authority which forbids the exercise of this right can be legitimately derived from the Scriptures. No such authority has been constituted by the great Head of the church. On the contrary, the divine command is on record, and is of universal obligation, “Let there be no divisions among you.” And the Saviour's prayer for his disciples, in all ages, is, “ That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
In these divine instructions we find our warrant for voluntary Societies to counteract the influences of all existing anti-scriptural divisions of the church, and the better to accomplish the great work of the church, as the light of the world. It is apparent also to the eye of every observer, that more unity of principle, as well as of action, is needed in the work of missions, and that whatever benefits may have arisen, in other respects, from the divisions of the church, under different names, and with conflicting opinions, it surely ought to occur to us, more frequently than it does, that, in the beginning, it was not so, and that it will not be so in the end. The Repository, therefore, will continue to be the advocate SECOND SERIES, VOL. I. NO. I.
of the right of voluntary associations, and will freely discuss the principles involved in this right. At the same time it will cherish and maintain a charitable and catholic spirit and bearing towards the friends and supporters of other organizations, however objectionable in form, for benevolent purposes.
Natural history, geology, astronomy, etc., are acknowledged to be of more or less importance in illustrating the facts and the truths of revelation. They are therefore interesting to the christian scholar. “ The works of the Lord are great,” says the Psalmist,“ sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.” Many of the facts, also, of natural science have been forced
away from their due connections and relations and made to subserve the cause of infidelity. They have been mingled, in distorted shapes, with the learning of more than one profession, and, through the medium of popular authors and lecturers, have been made to exert a perverting influence not only upon the mass of the community, but upon the minds of many of the intelligent and the educated. On these accounts, therefore, as well as on account of their essential importance, the facts and principles of the natural sciences require to be understood. They should be thoroughly investigated by all such as would defend with ability the truths of revelation against the cavils of skepticism. Articles on the leading topics of natural science will accordingly be invited from such as are especially engaged in these studies.
Mental science will also find a place in the Repository. It cannot be doubted that well digested and discriminating view's of the powers of the human mind, clearly stated, would do much towards settling many of the points now in controversy between theologians of different schools. There are fixed principles in the science of mind on which, considered by themselves, all intelligent men ayree, and certain mental phenomena, the existence of which is supported by the testimony of universal experience. These constitute the foundation of the science; and existing, as they do, in nature, and being admitted by all, whence has it occurred that so many conflicting theories have been formed by different authors ?
It is admitted by all writers on this subject that most of the confusion which exists has arisen from indefiniteness in the use of language. Each succeeding author, therefore, feels himself bound to define with accuracy the terms which he is pleased to use, that he may, at least, be consistent with himself. His definitions, however, differ in some slight degree from those of others of equal authority. Disputes are thus originated, in which each contends for the definition which is adapted to sustain his own theory, and the common sense of mankind and the true nature of the subject is not perfectly reached by any of the contending parties. "To us it appears plainly that the true remedy for these evils is not only accuracy of definitions, but agreement in definitions. In the most important fixed principles of the science all are agreed. Why should they not agree in their definitions ? If a system of mental philosophy is ever to be formed which shall be worthy of all acceptation, there must be this agreement. But in order to produce it, writers must cultivate the habit of placing themselves in each other's positions, and of thus approaching the several topics embraced in the science at the various points of access in which they present themselves to other minds. The periodical press furnishes the happiest facilities for the comparison of views which is here suggested, and it is hoped that the contributors to the Repository will not be slow to avail themselves of these facilities.
Our work will also be open to the free discussion of all questions of morals. Moral and religious sentiments have a natural sympathy with each other. Christianity recognizes this sympathy, and blends them in her precepts of love to God and love to man. Moral science, therefore, rightly understood, is but another name for Christianity in its application to the affairs of men. It is a part of the religion of every Christian to understand and perform his duty to all with whom he is associated in life, however remotely. The subject of christian morals, therefore, is one of universal interest to mankind. And it is not only every man's highest interest, but his duty to seek proper instruction in regard to his moral obligations.
It has been justly remarked that “the law of duty, in the abstract, is simple, and not liable to be mistaken ; but its applications are often complex and delicate, requiring the exercise of a strong and cultivated reason.” The idea of duty, in every case, must be fully comprehended, or the authority of duty cannot be strongly felt. When it is considered, therefore, that our moral obligations are infinitely various, that they comprehend the whole range of our duties to God, to ourselves and to our fellow men, it will be manifest to every reflecting mind that they open a field for the deepest research and the most interesting and profitable discussion. The mutual duties which result