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prevalency of such a disposition in the minds of men, will result in a conviction of its truth.'—p. 18.
This is, to our apprehension, a high order of thinking, and the language of Scripture is here placed in its true point of view. Responsibility for opinion we have seen, by the quotations already made, is here based on the same foundation as responsibility for actions, and the peremptory requisition of belief, which has been urged as an objection to the Scriptures, has here received its proper comment. It is not, therefore, on the main and more applicable portions of these lectures that we have any strictures to make; it is when the author enters the field of pure metaphysics, or adopts an a priori mode of reasoning, that we find him occasionally obscure and unsatisfactory. We will quote a passage from the preface. He is claiming, if we apprehend his meaning rightly, for this responsibility to examine Christianity, an existence apart from, and prior to, any knowledge of Christianity itself.
Christianity does not require us to account ourselves responsible in rezard to our belief in virtue of the evidence afforded us of its own divine authority. It assumes and appeals to that responsibility as the ground on which it claims attention to that evidence. It judges us responsible in dealing with the proofs of its divine origin, and capable of perceiving ourselves to be so, before those proofs have been examined, while they are only proposed, or pending the question whether Christianity be a divine revelation or not. If this responsibility, then, were difficult of comprehension and incapable of proof, there would be an objection to the credibility of the Christian religion, which, as appears, would be wholly insurmountable; the offered evidences of its truth would not be entitled to examination.'—p. xii.
Here the author wishes to establish that in the order of events we must begin with this feeling of responsibility to examine. Now such a feeling cannot exist until some measure of knowledge has been imparted, some show of argument been made. The necessary order in our thoughts has been overlooked. Christianity must and does require us to account our“selves responsible in regard to our belief, in virtue of the evi'dence afforded us of its own divine authority. When it proposes to our attention the moral purity of its doctrines, what is this but appealing to one species of evidence of its truth, and of its divine original? The notion that the offered evidences of its truth would not be entitled to examination,' unless this feeling of responsibility already existed, and that thus an insurmountable obstacle would lie in the path of Christianity, is quite a curious instance of ingenious obscurity. Christianity, like every other doctrine, must make its first appeal to the rea
son of man, and his natural desire of knowledge; after some information has been infused into the mind, there then arises the feeling of responsibility to know more, and to decide correctly. The ear cannot be closed, nor the heart shut, for this would require us to assume that the doctrine had been already heard and condemned ; and these being left open there is free passage for religious truth, which, having once obtained entrance, makes speedy alliance with the conscience, and thus completes and secures its victory. This must be the course of events if we are speaking of rational beings and a rational conviction.
How far Mr. Smith confides in the views he has made out to himself of natural religion, may be shown from the following extract. • But this is not the only awful responsibility.
I may disbelieve the gospel, and this system of religion may be, in reality, nothing more than a wonderful formation of the purely inventive and imaginative principles of the human mind—but is the awful alternative at an end ? Suppose, then, that in addressing myself to the question of its credibility, and advancing to the determination of rejecting it, I have been mainly actuated by dispositions and feelings which my conscience cannot approve, or must entirely condemn; by a desire to free myself from certain restraints upon my conduct, and apprehensions of the Supreme Being, and a life to come; or even to be the final judge of my own actions, the sole proprietor of myself ;-am I exonerated and se. cure because the gospel is untrue ? Is this the state of mind with which I am satisfied to appear before the moral Governor of the universe-to see the end of all things—to await the disclosures of fu.
In this bold and well-written passage we find a futurity of rewards,-punishments,—a Judge, and a tribunal, all established and erected in the mind of the author without the aid of Scripture. And not only is the judgment-seat of God thus independently erected, but man is represented as being responsible before it for the conduct of his understanding, with respect to a religion presumed, by the terms of the proposition, to be fabulous. A reliance upon 'natural religion 'could not be more strikingly displayed.
But though the responsibility of man, as an article of natural religion, is thus boldly pronounced, we do not find throughout these lectures any account of it, as such, of a philosophical and consistent character. We have intimations given here and there, but nothing precise; and these intimations appear to contradict themselves. For instance, Mr. Smith repeats the general observation that we are responsible for such operations only of our mind as are voluntary; he then maintains that we are responsible for opinions, inasmuch as our desires have been active in their formation; we should now expect that he would, in consistency with this statement, assert a power of the will over the desires, but we find him instead describing will and desire as things identical;* so that there is no power left in the mind to have a control over desire, and no reason for asserting that any one operation is in fact more voluntary than another.
We had intended to enter a little ourselves upon this abstract question of human responsibility, but we find that the most curtailed exposition of our views would oblige us to extend this article to an inconvenient length; and there is another topic, touched upon in Mr. Smith's lectures, of more general and immediate interest, on which we are desirous of finding room to make a few comments. In the mean time we doubt not that the majority of our readers will be, like ourselves, contented with this general statement, namely, that responsibility is a feeling of the mind, the result of a command from one having power over us,—from society or God,-enjoining something which it is in our ability to perform. We, as Christians, receiving our command from an authorized revelation, can have no doubt as to what our sense of responsibility ought to be allied with.
One of the lectures which pleased us most in this volume, is the seventh, entitled, The Doctrine opposed to the Assumption of Infallibility. It is written with great spirit. After having established the duty of each individual to examine the Scriptures, the lecturer takes advantage of his position to aim a steady and decisive blow at that claim of infallibility put forward by the church of Rome, which would relieve each individual of this duty; or, at all events, would reduce it to the one act—to the attainment of the one result--of an acquiescence in the authority of that church.
• The presumption, we repeat, is a violation of all probability, that the Scripture-which we are now regarding as divinely inspiredshould, on the one hand, have instructed mankind to account themselves in a condition of trial as it regards the state of their minds, the bent of their will and affections, in investigating the import and credi. bility of its own language ; and, on the other, should, either directly or by implication, have afforded them any ground or warrant for concluding, that they might discharge the whole debt of their accountableness-redeem it for all time to come, by one compendious final act of belief—that of assenting to the claim of a single body, the church
* “We are universally conscious that the influence of our desire, or if it be so called, the power of our will, is no less real, and scarcely less extensive, over the operations of the mind,” &c., p. 39.
of Rome, to be received as an infallible expositor of the word of God : that by a stedfast continuance in that one article of belief, they might without
further effort of their own, moral or intellectual, assure themselves of a sufficient and abiding knowledge of the truth ; that the whole danger to our faith, in collecting and retaining the sense of the sacred writings, lay in the possibility of our being induced to withhold our confidence from one only infallible authority, or to abandon our subjection to its rule: that that danger escaped, the peril of heresy, with the uneasiness of doubt, and the task of inquiring would be at an end.'--p. 176.
But the lecturer has not confined himself to the Roman Catholic, he has urged his argument against the quarter where in this country it is most needed, and where it applies with equal validity. He thus continues : —
• Now this is an objection to the arrogation of infallibility by the church of Rome, which demands the serious examination of all who maintain or allow it; but especially would we press it on the attention of any of our own community, who may not be entirely satisfied that it should meet with our peremptory denial, and persisting opposition; or who, we may add, rejecting the infallibility of Rome, appear to be looking to some other authority than that of the Scriptures, as constituted to determine the articles of the Christian faith.'
And then, in a note at the end of the volume, he enters his protest against an 'advocacy of our church which appears to be growing up, and which as it rests its claim
the whole community, and aims to establish the universal duty of con' forming to its tenets and discipline, by evidence laid open to • learned men in the course of their researches into ecclesiasti'cal history, and, more particularly, in their study of the writ‘ings of the fathers,' must, in reality conduct to the same blind obedience of the Christian multitude, as does the Roman Catholic church with its claim of infallibility.
Gentle, very gentle, is the hand that Mr. Smith lays upon the Oxford divines, and the very high-church party to which allusion is here made; yet we gather from the Hulsean lecturer the following description of their style of divinity. It will probably be considered by some of our readers as more authentic than if it proceeded from ourselves.
* At the very time our attention is called, with unaccustomed earnestuess, to the evidence of antiquity and tradition in support of our church, a judgment unusually severe, or rather absolutely condemnatory, is pronounced on all communities not Episcopalian : we mean, the most unfavorable, even hopeless conclusions are now put forward, touching the reality of their Christian character, and their state of
acceptance with God. They are spoken of as though they were in no better condition than that of the heathen in regard to the specific blessings of Christianity; and they are so spoken of in no ambiguous terms. But more—it is affirmed that they do not receive, that they reject fundamental truths, which to the heathen have never been of fered.'—p. 239.
The italics are Mr. Smith's. Well might he add, the Church will suffer by this hard, undistinguishing judgment upon other 'communities of Christians. Yes, the Church will suffer, or else this people be called upon to suffer under a spiritual despotism it is most lamentable to contemplate. We are glad to find the Hulsean Lecturer expressing his disapprobation of these ultra-churchmen; we wish only that he had been still more bold and still more explicit. And since he took the pains to write a note expressly on the subject, we regret, in particular, that he did not give us his own opinion upon this favored doctrine of apostolical succession, which to us appears the root of ecclesiastical bigotry, and of nothing else. Why, when he has occasion to censure the extreme illiberality of one portion of the Church in its application of this doctrine, does he shelter himself under quotations from a bishop or a distinguished clergyman? How happens it that a writer, on other topics remarkable for trusting to his own judgment—sparing even to barrenness in quotation-ever thinking out his subject by dint of solitary reflexion -seems here to have lost all faculty of utterance, and cannot tell us in the briefest manner, cannot hint to us by the most casual expression, his own sincere conviction upon this dogma of apostolical succession ? We warn all moderate and hesitating Churchmen that if they do not now resist the heady torrent of ecclesiastical intolerance, they will soon lose all power of resistance. Let such moderate men know-however reluctant they may be to admit the fact—that the opinions which they recoil from are every day spreading wider and taking deeper root in the Church, and that a strenuous effort to repel them, if not necessary for the preservation of the Establishment, is necessary for their own safety. Let them know that if already they consent to speak and write in the strain of timid apologists for whatever is manly and sensible in their creed of church government, they will be in reality the silenced ministers of their day. By this untimely hesitation they are preparing for themselves the harsh alternative of ejectment from their livings, or the violation of whatever conscientious feeling they may possess on the promulgation of the truth. It is not as enemies to the Church, but as friends to freedom (a cause which has, we hope, some partisans in the Establishment) that we now declare, that