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The next example shall be from this journal. No opinion respecting the mediocrity of modern theology has been expressed by us, that has not been put forth by some of our contemporaries also; but we are conscious that our expressions will give an offence that theirs have not given; and for this plain reason, that we produce impression by making ourselves intelligible, which they have not done: for if they have written a clear sentence in one place, they have written a contrary opinion in some other place, and thus the truth has been neutralized. For this reason also we have found the excellent work of Mr. Riland, on the present state of the religious world*, vehemently censured, although it contains little that might not be found in other, but less intelligible and more contradictory, pamphlets. Many illustrations of this might be found. The Christian Observer says that there is nothing which Mr. Irving has described in his sermons on "The Last Days," as characteristic of the present state of the religious world, but what has been often reiterated in that journal; fragments of which it adduces in proof of the justice of its remark. This is not to be disputed; but, then, these descriptions have been so diluted by the mixture of contradictory matter that they have produced no effect. And, since the Christian Observer has said the same thing itself, it is marvellous that it should censure its own opinions when echoed by Mr. Irving. In like manner, Cobbett has made known the advantages of the acacia tree: he has said nothing new, but only that which has been often repeated before. Some wise men have denied his merit, because they can find all that he says in Miller's Gardener's Dictionary, published above 100 years previously. His defence is complete: he replies, "This is all very true, gentlemen; but how comes it to pass, then, that you never planted these trees as a source of profit from what you read in Miller, and that you never thought of doing such a thing till I wrote about it?".
Our third example is from two Reverend Doctors, who shall be nameless; one of whom preached for a while at Brighton, and the other is actually located in a chapel in London. By an application of terms, which they of course call judicious, and we call artful and dishonest, they contrive to keep their chapels full; and among their auditory are to be found Calvinists, ready to bristle up for every one of the five points; Arminians, straining after perfection in the flesh; and worldly people (and of considerable acuteness of intellect too, as their published works shew), who absolutely deny the root of the Christian scheme, and who maintain that they never hear from their minister any thing to which they do not cordially agree. This is effected by the use . of conventional terms, not one of which is ever defined and
* Antichrist; Papal, Protestant, and Infidel: an Estimate of the Religion of the Times.
therefore the preachers and the hearers are constantly playing at cross-purposes. The preachers conceive that they are doing great good to the unawakened part of their congregation, by acting so as to bring them under what they call 'the sound of the Gospel;' whereas they are, in fact, starving the children of God for the sake of retaining a particular body of followers. Nay, so little disguise do the preachers themselves assume as to their object, that whenever they go to other congregations, and especially if composed of poor people, they preach in a totally different
It would scarcely be credited, by those who have not made the comparison, how close a resemblance there is between the statements of doctrine in the published sermons of the Evangelical Clergy, and those of the Church of Rome. We could point to scores of volumes in which not one sentence occurs that would offend the ears of the most sensitive admirer of the Council of Trent: for be it remembered, that the Papists admit the doctrine of justification by faith, in a certain sense, and that the Evangelical body does no more. If our limits would permit, we might, moreover, proceed to point out sermons which pass for Evangelical, and which nevertheless contain no one sentence that might not have been written by an Arian or Socinian. We do not mean to assert that Bishop Jebb, for example, holds either of those heresies; or to suppose, that, if he did, he would be so dishonest as to receive the wages and dignities of that church from which he was in heart an apostate: but if any one is tempted to doubt the accuracy of the tenor of our remarks, we beg him, by way of experiment, to turn to the volume of Sermons by this Bishop, and try whether he can, out of it alone, prove the writer to be orthodox on the Atonement.
There is one other cause still of the low state of theology prevalent amongst us; and that is, the absence of controversy, and the distaste of controversial writing. It is totally impossible that a Christian can be solidly established upon any one point unless he have examined both sides of it. The spirit of personal abuse, which usually accompanies works of controversy, is not only to be avoided on account of its inherent impropriety, but also on account of the distaste which it creates in delicate minds; whereby it repels, rather than entices, the perusal of really valuable works. Such is, doubtless, the cause of many excellent persons having an instinctive horror at the very name of a controversial publication.-It is also to be admitted, that very few works of this nature enter really and honestly into the merits of the point in dispute. The writings of Dr. Wardlaw on Socinianism are a model of this species of composition. If ever he states the argument of his adversary in any other language than his own, he also does so for his opponent's advantage: whereas controversialists in
general fasten upon some collateral expression, to which a meaning is attached directly at variance perhaps with the main scope of the author, and he is charged with holding opinions as abhorrent to himself as to his slanderous accuser. Of this we have a recent example in the dishonest attack upon Mr. Irving by Mr. J. A. Haldane and his associate Cole.
Another cause will be found in what more nearly touches our own gentle craft; we mean, that of Reviewers and we earnestly exhort our brethren in this vocation to remember, that it is impossible, or at least extremely difficult, to teach sound theology upon any of the great and deep mysteries of God in periodical journals. Whether it be owing to an entire want of capacity in the conductors, and a total ignorance of what is and what is not the highest department of theology; or whether it proceed from some other cause; certain it is that the Religious Magazines have never entered, as far as we have been able to discover, into a full examination of any one of the few works of this character which have appeared in latter years among us. A brief notice of the title and contents, with a little abuse or flattery, according as the author happens to be or not to be of the sect of the reviewer, is all that we can detect in the piles of the Christian Observer, Evangelical, Eclectic, Congregational, Methodist, and Baptist Magazines. Goode's Essays, Williams on the Decrees, Vaughan's Notes to Luther, or his Popular Essays, President Edwards's Treatises, Irving's Preface to Ben Ezra, and a few other works of a similar description, seem to be as much beyond the grasp of editors of religious magazines as if they were written in Chinese. We mention this as a ground of watchfulness to ourselves; and as one to which our contemporaries should especially direct their attention. If our brother journalists are really anxious to advance the interests of religion, we entreat them to remember, that as the necessary tendency of reviews is to substitute shallow for deep and solid views of all subjects, so it requires a continued effort on the part of their conductors to counteract this natural bias. But the fact is, that the magazines have tended to inculcate quite an opposite opinion, and to encourage the idea that they have been the means of advancing sound theology. We have already, in a former number, proved that they have not done this: and we beg it may be distinctly understood, that in going beyond this, and in saying that it is impossible that this species of publication should become a complete theological instructor, we fully include ourselves. Indeed, we should hold ourselves to be most arrant quacks, if we did not honestly avow that we can at best but give hints and ideas and outlines, which may suggest, or direct, meditation; but that it is meditation alone, upon some of the revealed characters or purposes of Jehovah, that can make a holy Christian.
We set out with saying that Dr. Thomson's sermons were good of their kind. We may go further still, and say, that, in one kind of sermon-writing, we know nothing at all like them. His whole style is like that of a legal argument; and when perusing his volumes we can scarcely believe that we are not reading an address to a jury in a court of justice, rather than a sermon to a congregation in a place of worship. Judging from these compositions, we should say that he greatly mistook his vocation, as far as his worldly fame is concerned, when he chose the pulpit, instead of the bar, as the theatre for the display of his talents. The whole habit and taste of his mind is evidently to law and lawyers. But here he is, a Doctor of Divinity, instead of a Lord of Session, and so we must make the best of him in this capacity. Now, this best is not theology, but controversy. As Edgeworth says of Rousseau, "where he happens to be right his eloquence is irresistible;" so where Dr. Thomson's theology happens to be sound his power of writing is very great indeed. He would be a capital advocate for accused Christians before a persecuting tribunal. If his law were like his divinity, he would be of the same class as Mr. Brougham, and the late Mr. Erskine,-valueless, wherever learning was required; but overwhelming, where declamation would answer the purpose, and inaccuracies were of little importance. In some of his controversial writings his language was not temperate, but there is a vein through them all that marks a man of a playful and amiable disposition. We feel convinced, that, were we personally acquainted with him, we should probably differ, but that it would be our fault if that difference ever proceeded to a breach of love between us. Barring the abominable notes which were exposed in our last number, we recommend this volume to the perusal of our readers.
ON THE HEADS OF THE BEAST OF THE APOCALYPSE.
To the Editor of the Morning Watch.
SIR,-I was much gratified by the perusal of your review of Mr. Maitland's Second Inquiry respecting the 1260 days, which I think you have satisfactorily proved to be symbolical of 1260 natural years. It is not my intention to enter, therefore, upon this subject but it will afford Mr. Maitland (with whom I have become recently acquainted) and myself great pleasure, if you will allow me to correct, through the medium of the Morning Watch, a mistake into which he has fallen. The Dublin Christian Examiner referred Mr. Maitland to my last work in one volume, "The Fulfilment, &c. displayed," for a long train of argument, by which I endeavoured to prove, in answer to
Pastorini, that the 1260 days were emblematical of 1260 years. Mr. Maitland, not aware that I had published a second work on the subject, referred to my first work, "The Fulfilment elucidated," in two volumes; which did not contain any of the arguments to which the reviewer alluded respecting the 1260 years; those arguments having been brought forward against Pastorini, of whom I knew nothing in 1815, when my first work was published. Trusting to your indulgence for this correction, I proceed to the consideration of Mr. Maitland's arguments on the five fallen heads of the beast.
Hitherto these five fallen heads have been supposed to be kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, and military tribunes. Mr. Maitland, on the contrary, asserts that Rome was under other forms of government, which had ceased to exist previous to the time of St. John, and which commentators on the prophecy_have passed over in silence. If Mr. Maitland be correct, if Rome were under eight or nine forms of government, which had become extinct previous to the time of St. John, then it is obvious that the seven-headed and ten-horned beast does not typify the Roman Empire, and that every interpretation of the prophecy resting on this supposition falls to the ground. Hence it is of the highest importance to examine Mr. Maitland's arguments; to meet them full and fairly in all their bearings; and to ascertain correctly whether the Roman empire, previously to the date of the prophecy, had been under five or more forms of government, which at that period had ceased to exist.
Considerable confusion and error frequently result from a want of duly contemplating the symbols of the Apocalypse. We should place the symbolical objects clearly before our eyes; examine their appearance and character, and the natural changes which are incident to them, distinctly and minutely; before we can accurately ascertain the object which they typify, and the beauty and correctness of the application. Supposing, then, we place the heads of this beast before us. The five fallen heads, being heads of the same beast, may possess a family likeness; but still each of them, as in individuals of the same family, will vary from the others in form, size, or colour, so as to present a different outward appearance, which will mark the individual.
Again let us suppose that a single head is before our eyes, and that we view the progressive changes it undergoes from the commencement to the termination of its existence. We shall perceive that the grand lineaments are the same throughout, and preserve its identity; but that it is subject to some alteration in its outward appearance, in sickness and in health, in youth and
From these remarks we may deduce the two following rules for the interpretation of the head of the beast.