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tigation,—What is it, or who is it, that excites the affections? Setting aside all outward exciting causes, we observe that the proverb that “man is never less alone than when alone,” paradoxical as it may seem, nevertheless expresses a literal truth. The meaning usually affixed to it is, that when a man is alone his thoughts bear him company. But it has a far deeper significance. The fact is, no man is ever alone. There is no such thing in the wide universe as perfect isolation. If a human being could for one moment be perfectly isolated, he would at once sink into annihilation. Man's very existence as a distinct entity absolutely depends upon his momentarily continuous connection with spiritual beings, whom he may possibly be unable to see, and whose action upon himself he may be unable to perceive, but with whom, nevertheless, he is closely connected by similarity of affection. Now, it is scarcely necessary to observe, that all the spiritual beings of whom any conception can be formed are divisible into two classes—the good and the bad; the former belonging to the heavenly kingdom, and the latter to the kingdom of darkness. The good have no greater desire with reference to man, than that he should become a subject of the heavenly kingdom and a sharer in their happiness; and all their energies are accordingly directed towards the attainment of that end. The spirits of darkness, on the contrary, have no greater desire than that man should become a subject of the infernal kingdom and a sharer in their misery. Accordingly, all their efforts are directed towards keeping his affections and thoughts, together with their attendant delights, on the side of sin and selfishness, this being an infallible means of compassing their sinister design. These two classes of spirits, then, thus acting upon and exciting the affections, are the immediate agents in swaying human thought, and in causing the human subject on whom they exercise their action, to contract thoughthabits in harmony with the affection to which, by voluntarily siding with it, he has yielded the ascendancy.
Now the Divine Being, in His infinite desire for the eternal happiness of every member of the human family, provides that good spirits whose affection is similar to that which rules for good in any given human subject, should dwell in that affection and excite it to embody itself in a thought directed towards that end which it specifically affects; that so a thought-habit may be formed, which shall serve as a basis to secure its permanency. But as no state, whether of affection or of thought, can be secure of permanency unless it be received and developed in perfect freedom, and as such freedom is not possible unless man be in a position to choose between two opposite states; and as, moreover, such power of choice is not possible unless both states be presented to his mental view through the medium of his thoughts; therefore God has also suffered spirits of darkness, whose ruling affection is similar to that which rules for evil in the individual, to take up their abode in that affection, and excite it to embody itself in a thought congenial with itself; that so a thought-habit may be engendered, which shall lead to the perpetration of evil deeds, and thus secure the permanency of the evil affection. The design of God in this permission evidently is not that man should be lured into evil thought-habits, and thereby into outward evil courses, but that, by a fair comparison between the good and the evil offered to his acceptance, aided by the counsels of Divine truth as embodied in the Holy Word, he may be enabled so to exercise his freedom as to “refuse the evil and choose the good,” and thus insensibly to contract thoughthabits that may serve as an appropriate basis for the free play of heavenly affections, and for the full development of a heavenly character.
Man, then, is thus placed in the midst between two contending powers, each of them striving for the mastery ; the powers of good in order to secure his eternal happiness, and the powers of evil in order to drag him down into eternal misery; and that by means of the thought-habits they each of them seek to create within him through the medium of his affections. The state of man as regards his regeneration is thus determined and is manifested to himself by the quality of his thought-habits. It is sufficient, therefore, but it is indispensable, in order to his ascertaining how he stands as regards his eternal state, that he should impartially examine the tendency of those habits. Should he find that they tend to favour the indulgence of any evil affection, then it is high time that he should forcibly expel the thought. By so doing, whenever it seeks to effect an entrance, its power, together with that of the affection of which it is the embodiment, and that of the spirits of darkness who dwell in and excite that affection, will gradually become weakened; whilst that of the good affection and of the good spirits who dwell in it will be proportionally increased. And if he deals thus with every evil thoughthabit that he finds prevailing in himself, he will gradually become a living embodiment of all that is good, and true, and heavenly; he will enter into fellowship with angels and into conjunction with the Lord Himself.
The subject of thought-habits, then, when viewed in juxtaposition with that of man's connection with the invisible world, assumes an importance which it does not seem to possess when viewed apart from that connection. It teaches us the awful fact, that whenever we give way to an evil thought-habit we are brought by our own act and deed into actual contact with beings intent upon our destruction. At the same time it reveals to us the glorious truth, that if in humble dependence and reliance upon the Lord, we oppose a steady and persistent resistance to evil thoughts, the Lord will bring us into blessed consociation with those beings whose chief delight it is to see us happy, and, above all, into actual and eternal conjunction with Himself, the only true Source of happiness.
THE MIRACLES RECORDED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.1
The writer of the work whose title is at foot has set himself a great task, to which, however, he brings considerable literary ability, logical power, scholarship, and special erudition. It is no less than to show that the claims of “supernatural religion" are utterly untenable ; that the miracles recorded in the Gospels are in no sense evidences of the truth of the claims of Jesus Christ; that miracles are incredible in the nature of things; that the testimony furnished in the Gospels as to the working of such miracles is altogether inadequate ; that, indeed, the Gospels themselves are thoroughly unreliable documents, undeserving of respect, to say nothing of reverence; and quite incapable of proving either the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ or the teachings which Christ gave, or hardly the fact that He was crucified, and certainly not capable of proving that He really rose from the grave, or ascended into heaven ; that, in brief, though it cannot be doubted that such a person as Jesus Christ did once live, we can know nothing satisfactorily as to what He really taught or did! The writer must be indeed a sanguine person if he hopes that his two volumes will succeed in reconverting Christendom from the belief in Christianity into the sort of modified Paganism which would alone remain possible if the fabric of faith reared by the Saviour and His Apostles could be overthrown. Yet such a book, representing a very low phase of
1 Supernatural Religion: an Inquiry into the Reality of Divine Revelation.Third Edition. London: Longmans. 1874.
Unitarianism, appearing at the present crisis of faith, harmonises so well with the current of modern thought, that it is certain to be eagerly bought, if not deeply studied. It will so easily furnish to many the materials for quickly acquiring the appearances of profundity, and a ready means of pretending to erudition on the subjects therein treated, that it is clearly destined to a rapid as well as a large sale. Hence it is not surprising to find that it has been even clamorously called for at the circulating libraries, and has reached & third edition in as many months.
The book is published without the author's name. It was at first popularly attributed to Dr. Vance Smith, the Unitarian member of “ the company of learned persons” now revisimg the English translation of the Bible; that gentleman, however, has publicly contradicted the impression. The Rock newspaper (Oct. 30th) reports the rumour that its author is no less a person than Mr. Pusey, a nephew of Dr. Pusey. If this statement be correct, it will furnish an almost equally surprising illustration of the meeting of two extremes of thought in one family, as is supplied by the two brothers Newman.
It is manifestly foreign to the special object of the Intellectual Repository to enter into anything like an elaborate, not to say exhaustive, review of the work, even though the present writer were equal to the duty, which he is not. “Supernatural Religion " is a book which, the author tells us, is “the result of many years of earnest and serious investigation,” exclusively directed to the topics which it discusses ; one which calls for and will inevitably receive more than one reply from students competent to the task. His frequent and deprecatory references to Dr. Tischendorf virtually challenge that veteran. Without venturing, however, to set our readers afloat on the wide and weary sea of subjects involved in the later parts of the work,questions as to the relative authority of differing codices, patristic quotations from the Gospels, the relative value of Apocryphal Gospels and Epistles, their references to or citations from the Synoptics, various readings, interpolated passages, the often contradictory opinions of professed experts, and all the other specialties of New Testament textual criticism, —we may with propriety consider the writer's argument as to Miracles.
His argument on this point he divides into six heads, detailed through as many chapters, severally entitled, “ Miracles in relation to Christianity ;" “ Miracles in relation to the order of Nature” (two chapters); “The Age of Miracles ;” “The permanent stream of
Miraculous Pretension;" and “ Miracles in relation to Ignorance and Superstition.”
Both his point and method of attack are indicated at the outset of his book. “ Christianity” he describes as professing to “be a Divine Revelation of truths which the human intellect could not otherwise have discovered ;” it is “supernatural in its origin and doctrine ;” ito “ claim to acceptance is necessarily based upon supernatural evidence ;" “ truths that require to be miraculously communicated do not come within the range of our intellect, and cannot, therefore, be intelligently received upon internal testimony.” Accordingly, the author agrees with the long lists of Anglican divines whom he quotes, that the chief, and, in fact, the only conclusive proof of the mission of Christ is to be found in “ the miracles which He wrought.” This is the major premiss on which the whole of the argument is built. Discredit the miracles of Jesus, and His mission is disproved; for “miracles are the only sufficient proof of a revelation from God.” Hence he continually rings changes on the sentiment that “miraculous evidence is necessary to substantiate a miraculous mission." He agrees with Bishop Butler that Mahomet had an “utterly barbarous idea of evidence and a total miscalculation of the claims of reason," because he did not consider miraculous evidence necessary to attest a supernatural dispensation. This axiom as to evidence, as is well known, is fundamental in the opinion of all the teachers of the Anglican Church. Writers so diverse as Bishop Butler, Drs. Paley, Newman, Whately, Heurtly, Mansel, and Mozley, not to name others, are at perfect accord in the opinion that, as Dr. Mozley states, “ Christianity cannot be maintained as a revelation undiscoverable by human reason, a revelation of a supernatural scheme for man's salvation, without the evidence of miracles.” This view has originated a new adjective to be applied to miracles, “evidential.” Hence, as the author remarks, “it is obvious, therefore, that the reality of miracles is the vital point. ... If the reality of miracles cannot be established, Christianity loses the only evidence by which its truth can be sufficiently attested.” Consequently, he sets to work to show that “the miracles are incredible,” and that therefore, both “the supernatural revelation and its miraculous evidence must together be rejected.”
Seeing the important function performed by this axiom in the argument, one is impelled to challenge its accuracy. Is it true that the final proof of the mission of Jesus Christ is to be found in the miracles