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I. CHRISTIANITY AND PSEUDO-CHRISTIANITY. - E. C. Towne
I. WESTERN CHARACTER AND WESTERN LIFE.
ART. I.—THE DESTINIES OF ECCLESIASTICAL
A CONCIO A D CLERUM.
BY FREDERIC H. HEDGE, d.d.
THERE has been much lamenting of late about the want of recruits for the gospel ministry. The body of the Clerus is not re-enforced from year to year by men who can fill with acceptance the vacancies caused by retirement and death, or meet the demands of the new congregations which are yearly springing up, and which, however they may differ in other respects, are strikingly unanimous in asking that the preacher sent them be one of commanding ability. One would say that never was harvest so plenteous, and never surely were laborers so few. The youth of the universities are slow to enter a profession which ought to attract the best spirits and the richest talents to its service. The vigor and talent of this generation seek other channels, and leave the pulpit to be served hereafter with inferior ministrations, if served at all.
Various causes have been assigned in explanation of this deficiency, and various methods proposed for replenishing the ranks, which are growing thinner in numbers, and, as
VOL. LXXXII. -NEW SERIES, VOL. III. NO. I.
some will have it, poorer in quality, from year to year. A portion opine that the difficulty lies in the meagre temporalities with which parishes second the spiritual service: others ascribe it to the ever-increasing opportunity and solicitation of industrial adventure; others still, to the fickleness of popular, parochial favor, on which the ease and stability of clerical fortunes so largely depend. I cannot think that either or all of these causes suffice to account for the evil in question. I impute it to moral and intellectual, rather than prudential, reasons. I impute it to certain prevailing influences, partly scientific and partly social, which have alienated the youthful mind from the old sanctities and ecclesiastical uses with which religion has been associated in time past. The fact is, the spirit of the age, or the speculative mind of the age, as in the decline of republican Rome, has broken with ecclesiasticism. I believe the rupture to be merely temporary. Society requires a Church, requires ecclesiastical organization for the use and maintenance of public worship, and, with varying method and symbol, will have them, until the New Jerusalem, descending from the heavens and organizing itself in human practice, shall realize the word of the seer, "I saw no temple therein.” A Church there will be, ecclesiastical organizations there will be: science may modify, but cannot abolish them. The speculative mind of the age must accept them, and adjust itself with them, or else go down before them as one of the false prophets and spirits of antichrist, which from time to time, as we read, "have gone out into the world."
Meanwhile, I respect the scruple which detains a young man from this ministry, who is conscious in himself of no internal vocation for the office. Without that vocation, the minister's function is the hardest and dreariest of all pursuits. Without that vocation, there will either be mechanical routine, oppressing and quenching the life of the spirit; or, with greater intellectual activity, there will be a retarding friction between thought and function, between the private conscience and the old traditional requirements; speculation will put the brake on devotion; there will be an insincerity
in the sacraments, fatal to the spiritual health of preacher and hearer; or, if sacraments be abandoned as indigestible formalities, too tough for the feeble stomach of " Naturalism," the mere statedness of worship will become at last an intolerable burden.
To make the ministry profitable, or even tolerable, — I mean the ministry in existing communions, I do not mean those exceptional associations which are formed on the simple basis of prophetism, there must be a decided preponderance of religious sensibility, and even of ecclesiastical consciousness, over speculative and critical tendencies of mind, a preponderance which shall make the positive truths and traditional requirements of the Church seem more important, in the preacher's estimation, than his private speculations or his critical doubts. There is a place for criticism, for thorough, unsparing criticism, and frank negation of all that criticism finds untenable. I certainly have no quarrel with criticism: I am only speaking of the function of the pulpit in existing ecclesiastical relations. Not critical demolition, but practical edification, it seems to me, is the pulpit's true function. I would not have the preacher ignorant of the negative results of criticism; but they should not stick out in his preaching. He should know how to merge and absorb them in the positive doctrine of his broad and reconciling word. He should not, regardless of time and place, say all he knows, or thinks he knows, much less all that he fancies or suspects.
What! shun to declare the whole counsel of God? Not if you surely know what that counsel is. Who has that certainty? You deny that the whole counsel of God is contained in the Bible. You deny, in the words of another, "that the whole mind of God, as made known to man, has been put in print, and consigned to the bookbinder." Very true! but let this truth be impartially implied. Beware of supposing that the whole mind of God is contained in the text-books of science; that recorded observation embodies all that is, or can be. The dogmatism of theology is bad, but the dogmatism of unbelief is no better.
There is a wisdom, not of concealment (for that implies trickery), but of reticence. So far, I think, the distinction of esoteric and exoteric is perfectly consistent with Christian simplicity and rectitude of purpose. "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." It takes two to make truth. The object presented is one of the factors; the mind to which it is presented is the other. Truth is a right relation between the two. Change the condition, the point of view of the mind that receives, and you change that relation. The proposition which is true to one mind, with its given conditions, may not be true to another with very different conditions. The truths of science present the same aspect, and therefore are equally true to every mind that is capable of comprehending the literal import of the propositions which contain them. No difference of mental condition can make the statement that an equilateral triangle has equal angles more or less true. But outside of the realm of exact science, and especially in the region of theology, you can hardly lay down a proposition which shall be absolutely true to all minds and times. Hence the separation which philosophy has sought to establish between the field of science proper and the supersensuous world of metaphysic and religion. In that separation consists the essence of what is called the "Positive Philosophy." It has recently been proposed to apply the principle of positivism to theology, and religion has been declared to be in danger of dissolution unless that application is made. The proposition mistakes, I think, the essential nature of the subject. The truths of theology are not topics of scientific knowledge, but of faith. We cannot know them as we know the facts of science, although the assurance of them may be as great or greater than that which science gives. In religion
"We have but faith, we cannot know;
We may systematize those facts of psychology on which the truths of theology rest, and may formulate inferences from them; but the gulf which divides the facts experienced from the facts inferred, the beliefs from the objects of those