« AnteriorContinuar »
troduce did not overturn the theology of Moses. It recognized it as true and divine. “ I come not,” said he, “to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil,” to complete, to perfect. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob he revealed as the Father of mankind.
Worship was no longer to be paid exclusively at Jerusalem, but in every place where a spiritual worshipper was to be found.
But candor compels us to confess that Christianity practically relapsed into a condition in which it bore but a poor comparison to Judaism itself, on which it professed to be an improvement, and which it was intended to supersede. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” said the sublime voice on Sinai. But we are constrained to acknowledge, that, by the debasement of theology introduced by the doctrine of the Trinity, and the deification of Jesus, the Virgin Mary became the principal object of worship, and continues to be in all Catholic countries to the present hour.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, nor in the earth beneath ; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them.” But what do we see in many Christian churches, but multitudes of images and paintings representing the Virgin, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, and even God himself. Take up a book of Catholic devotion, and you will find no inconsiderable part of the worship to be addressed to Christ and the Virgin. Take up a Methodist hymn-book, and you will find that most of the devotions are addressed exclusively to Christ. All this is done with the most perfect conscientiousness, and without the slightest doubt of its being right and proper. But it is in direct violation of the injunctions of both the Old and New Testaments. “ Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” And Christ, before he left the earth, commanded his disciples, —"In that day ye shall ask me nothing, but whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, that will I do”; thus prohibiting all prayers being addressed to him when he should have been exalted to heaven.
But no divine law is arbitrary. All God's commandments are founded on reason and the nature of things. Worship directed to any other being besides the only true God is an evil, not only because it is prohibited, but because it is an evil in itself. Worship is not only a duty to God, but a duty to ourselves, as it is the most powerful means of spiritual influence upon our own souls, the most efficient cause of spiritual growth, comfort, strength, and edification. All the omnipotence of the divine attributes is brought to bear directly on our minds and hearts. These, in the only living and true God, being perfect and infinite, act upon us with the force of their own infinitude and perfection. But the instant you substitute any thing else in the place of the true God, that influence is lost.
Supposing it were possible, and were a fact, that Christ was both God and man, that he possessed divine as well as human attributes, the human nature cannot be, and ought not to be, an object of worship. No man can worship the human nature of Christ without idolatry. But Christ is known to us principally in his human capacity, as an historical personage, and his attributes, so far as known to us, are human attributes, -piety, meekness, patience, sympathy, tenderness, self-sacrifice. Now these are human attributes, not divine. On these the mind naturally fixes
itself when thinking of Christ. It would be almost impossible to worship Christ, even supposing him to have two natures, without committing idolatry. What we should naturally anticipate has actually taken place, and the Episcopalian is heard to pray in such language as this :"By the mystery of thy holy incarnation, by thy holy nativity and circumcision, by thy baptism, fasting, and temptation, by thine agony and bloody sweat, by thy precious death and burial, and by thy glorious resurrection and ascension, good Lord, deliver us ! ”
Now all this is calculated to produce animal excitement of sympathy with human suffering, instead of an exalted, calm adoration of a nature that is incapable of suffering. That animal excitement is not devotion, nor can it produce the ennobling effect of devotion. How poorly does it contrast with the devotions of the Old Testament, with the ninetieth Psalm for instance, which comes down to us as the
prayer of Moses, the man of God. " Lord thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting thou art God. A thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night."
Consider the sublimity of some of the ascriptions in the New Testament :-“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.” “The blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in light to which no man can approach. Whom no man hath seen or can see, to whom be honor and power everlasting." And yet the disciples of the same Master who taught his disciples to pray,
"Our Father who art in heaven, are heard to pray,
Holy Mary, mother of God !” Far be it from me to say these things in the way of reproach. I speak of them with the deepest regret. I mention them solely to illustrate the truth which I am endeavouring to exhibit, the fundamental and vital importance of theology, that it is not true that it is of no consequence what a man believes, provided he is sincere. I mean to show, that a man's religion, let him be never so sincere, is inevitably affected by his theology. In proportion as his theology is true and pure will his religion be elevating, ennobling, consoling. Especially is it necessary to adhere with the greatest strictness to the unity of G d. The first of all the commandments is, according to the divine wisdom of the Saviour, " Jehovah our God, Jehovah is one.
Quite as important to the welfare of mankind is a true theology with regard to the altribules of the Divine Being as the unity of his essence. Without just ideas of the character of God, all religion degenerates into superstition. The Reformers, who taught that God from all eternity has elected some to everlasting life, without reference to any thing foreseen in them or done by them, and foreordained others, in an equally arbitrary manner, to eternal torments for the possession of a nature which he himself had given them, subverted the foundation of piety and religion quite as much as those who taught men to worship the Virgin Mary ; for the want of mercy and justice in the one is as fatal to the claims of that Being to the homage of the human heart, as the want of omnipotence in the other. Nay, it is not unlikely, that the false
representation of the Deity in this respect was the very thing which drove them to adore the almost divine compassion of a mother's heart.
This view of the paramount importance of a true theology seems to be fully borne out by the tenor of Christ's last prayer with his disciples, which is a solemn and almost formal statement of the object of his mission and the substance of his teaching. That object was to give men "eternal life," and how ? " And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” " I bave manifested thy name,” I have made thee known “ to the men which thou gavest me out of the world.” The want of a true knowledge of God was the great evil which he came to remedy. “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name," I have made thee known, “and will declare it.” “ Sanctify them through thy truth ; thy word is truth."
It is impossible to read the prayer of Christ without perceiving that he placed his main dependence on a better theology, a better knowledge of God, for the moral reformation of the world. It must be so, for as God is the great central force which controls and governs all things, and all things maintain a perfect order because he is perfect, so the idea of God is the great controlling force in the moral world. He is the object of devotion, the highest act of the mind and heart, the soul's brightest ideal, the heart's deepest reverence. Any imperfection here obscures and eclipses the light of the moral world, and in proportion to that obscuration men grope in darkNO. 233.