« PreviousContinue »
REV. ROBERT GORDON,
MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL, EDINBURGH,
MY WORTHY FRIEND,
The design of the following Argument, which with all affection and esteem I dedicate to you, is to recover the great subject of
, Judgment to come from poetical visionaries on the one hand, and from religious rhapsodists on the other; and to place it upon the foundation of divine revelation, of human understanding, and the common good. To which wholesome ends I bring forward the revelation of God upon the subject, and endeavour to show that it commends itself to every noble sentiment of the human breast, and to every worthy interest of human life. For it seems to me that upon religion we are growing wiser than our fathers, who were content with a train of human authorities, and that this age requireth religious truth to he justified, like other truth, by showing its benefits to the mind itself, and to society at large. The poets and the economists are quite alive to this advancement of the public mind, and alteration of the public taste, of whom the former address our imagination and our heart, the latter our interests ;-bases upon which they have reared by far the most rival influences to religion—the school of Sentiment, which holds of the former; and the school of Politics, which holds of the latter. Now being convinced that besides à Creed, there is in our religion the most elevated sentiment, and the greatest advantage both public and private, I see not but we should fight and overthrow these rivals with their own weapons, by addressing their disciples upon that side on which their ear is open. For their ear is shut, and I hope the ear of all men is for ever shut, to the authority of names; and it is vain now to quote the opinions of saints, or reformers, or councils, or assemblies, in support of any truth. They even hold cheap our. venerable theological language, though it can boast of great antiquity, and they insist upon its being translated into common phrases, that they may understand its meaning. And the misery is, they will not listen unless we gratify them in this reasonable request, but allow
us to have our disputations to ourselves while we cover them with that venerable disguise. In order, therefore, to have a chance of a hearing, I have refrained from systematic forms of speech, and endeavoured to speak of each subject in terms proper to it, and to address each feeling of human nature in the language most likely to move it-in short, to argue like a man, not a theologian ; like a Christian, not a churchman.
It seems to me, my dear friend, that, like the Botanists, we should give up the artificial and adopt the natural method, in treating religion ; and, instead of steering wide among disputed questions, bear down at once upon the occupations of the heart and life of man. They care not for our controversial warfare, they laugh at our antiquated method of handling questions—and so they perish from the way of truth, because of the unintelligible signals which we hang out. For this noble office, of delivering the truth from a contemptible imprisonment, and enshrining it in the good feelings, good sense, and common weal of men, which, being unchangeable in their nature, are the only proper receptacles for the unchangeable truth of revelation, I know not among my clerical friends any one better qualified than yourself. Your general knowledge, your familiarity with the accurate methods of science, your estimation of divine truth, and, above all, your catholic spirit and emancipation from churchman or sectarian intolerance, present you to my mind as eminently fitted for bringing the public affection back again to the doctrines of revealed truth.
I crave your forgiveness for saying this so publicly; but my
heart's desire is to see that thing, in which the world is most interested, established before the world in the highest and most honourable style, in order that it may have the chance of being held by the world in the dearest and the nearest place.
My dear and worthy friend,
OF JUDGMENT TO COME.
ACTS XVII. 30, 31. GOD COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERY Where to
REPENT : BECAUSE HE HATH APPOINTED A DAY, IN THE WHICH HE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
THE PLAN OF THE ARGUMENT; WITH AN INQUIRY INTO
RESPONSIBILITY IN GENERAL, AND GOD'S RIGHT TO
An Argument, or Apology, (for either of these
, words will denote that undertaking to which I now address myself in devout dependence upon Almighty God) ought, as is the manner of ordinary judicial questions, First, To choose the tribunal before which the question is to be tried ; Secondly, To define the exact point which is brought into issue; and, Thirdly, To open up the line of argument or defence that is to be
pursued. These preliminaries we shall now settle with our reader, before whose unbiassed judgments we are about to propound the merits of the most momentous question that ever came before him for a verdict.
The tribunal before which we choose to plead this most grave and momentous question, is the whole reason or understanding of man. Not his intellect merely, to which common arguments are addressed, but his affections, his interests, his hopes, his fears, his wishes,-in one word, his