Ezra Stiles Gannett Alvan Lamson.

The Christian examiner and religious miscellany, Volume 36 online

. (page 5 of 46)
Online LibraryEzra Stiles Gannett Alvan LamsonThe Christian examiner and religious miscellany, Volume 36 → online text (page 5 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

« ^

* 1. Christian Life^ its Course, its Hindrances, and its Helps. Sermons^
preached mostly in the Chapel of Rughy School. By TnOiMAS Arnold,
D. D., Head Miister of Rugby School, and late Fellow of Oriel College,
Oxford. Second Edition. London : 1842. 8vo. pp. 492.

2. Christian Life, its Hopes, its Fears, and its Close. Sermons, preached
mostly in the Chapel of Rugby School. By the late Thomas Arnold,
D. D., Head Master of Rugoy School, and Regius Professor of Modern
History in the Universi^ of Oxford. London : 1842. 8vo. pp. 469.

Digitized by


1844.] Arnold's Sermons. 89

one regular whole. This the author does not pretend,
though the title of the volumes would lead one to expect
some such thing. Probably most persons who take up the
volumes, allured by the title, will read them with a feeling
of disappointment. Still we cannot but think, that the
delivery of such sermons from Sabbath to Sabbath, marked,
as they are, by a high moral and reUgious tone, and con-
taining so much which was directly applicable, must have
been attended with good, especially when we take into
view the peculiar respect and affection, which, as we are
told. Dr. Arnold had the happiness uniformly to inspire in
his pupils. They certainly present a beautiful picture of
the relation in which he stood to his pupils, not simply as
their intellectual father, but a tender and faithful religious
guide. Several of the sermons, however, have a direct
reference to the principles and usages of his own Church,
the Church of England, which will render them less
acceptable elsewhere than at home and among the mem-
bers of the Establishment.

We will give a single extract from the sermons, to
illustrate what we have said of their directness and appli-
cation. We might give many better passages, and some
equally direct, but the following will show the author's
manner and style, when he is most familiar. He is speakhig
of a school as a Christian society, — as "in its idea and
institution God's temple ; " and every one, he says, who is
a member of it has a duty to perform in regard to it — he
owes a duty to the school.

" I would say a few words to another class of persons among
you, to those whose station in the school is high, but yet does
not invest them with authority, while their age is oflen such as
to give them really an influence equal to that of those above
them, or it may be superior. I will not say that these exercise
an influence for evil, for such a charge can only apply to par-
ticular persons ; none exercise a direct influence for evil without
being in some way evil themselves ; but I am sure that, as a
class, they have much to answer for in standing aloof, and not
discouraging evil and encouraging good. They forget that if
they have not authority, they have what really amounts to the
same thing ; they know that they are looked up to, — that what
they say and do has its effect on others; they know, in short,
that they are of some consequence and weight in the school.
But being so, they cannot escape the responsibility of their

Digitized by


40 Amold'a Sermons. [Jan.

position. It matters nothing that the rules of the school confer
on them no direct power. One far above any school authority
has given them a power, and will call them to a strict account
for its exercise. We may lay no official responsibility upon you,
but God does. He has given you a talent which it is your sin
to waste, or to lay by unimproved. And as it is most certain
that you have an influence and power, and you well know it ;
so remember that where there is power, there is ever a duty
attached to it ; — if you can influence others, — as beyond all
doubt you can, and do influence them daily, — if you do not
influence them against evil and for good, you are wasting the
talent entrusted to you, and sinning against God.

" Again, I will speak to them who are yet younger, whose
age and station in school confer on them, it may be, no general
influence. But see whether you too have not your influence,
and whether you also do not sin often by neglecting it or mis-
using it. By whom is it that new boys are for the most part
corrupted? Not certainly by those much above them in school,
but necessarily by their own immediate companions. By whom
are they laughed at for their conscientiousness, or reviled and
annoyed for their knowledge or their diligence ? not certainly
by those at or near the head of the school, but by those of their
own age and form. To whose annoyance does many a new boy
owe the wretchedness of his life here? To whose influence
and example has he owed the corruption of his practice, and of
his principles, — his ruin here and forever ? Is it not to those
nearly of his own age, with whom he is most led to associate ?
And can boys say that they have no influence, when they influ-
ence so notoriously the comfort and character of their neigh-
bors? At this moment particularly, when so many new boys
are just come amongst us, the younger or middle-aged boys
have an especial influence, and let them beware how they use it.
I know not what greater sin can be committed, than the so
talking, and so acting, to a new boy, as to make him ashamed
of any thing good, or not ashamed of any thing evil. It matters
very little what is the age of the boy who exercises an influence
like theirs. He, too, has anticipated the power of more ad-
vanced years, and in like manner he has contracted their guilt,
and is liable to their punishment."*

The Introduction and Notes, to which we have alluded,
belong to the first volume named by us, and published by
the author himself. They show us the magnitude of the
loss sustamed by the moderate party in the Church, by the

* Christian Life, ita Hopes, Fears, and Close. — pp. 60 — 62.

Digitized by


1844.] Origin of the Oxford Movement. 41

death of Professor Arnold, for he was an earnest, fearless
man, well-informed on all pomts of the controversy, and
disposed to give free utterance to his opinions. And he
did so.

The Oxford movement is generally supposed to have
commenced only ten or twelve years ago. Professor Ar-
nold assigns to it an earlier origin. It has been called " a
movement towards something deeper and truer than satis-
fied the last century." To this he does not object. He

"It began, I suppose, in the last ten years of the last century,
and has ever since been working onwards, though for a long
time slowly and secretly, and with no distinctly marked direc-
tion. But still, in philosophy and general literature, there have
been sufficient proofs that the pendulum, which for nearly two
hundred years had been swinging one way, was now beginning
to swing back again ; and as its last oscillation brought it from
the true centre, so it may be, that its present impulse may be no
less in excess, and thus may bring on again, in after ages,
another corresponding reaction." — p. iii.

Of Mr. Newman and his friends Dr. Arnold says,

** There are states of nervous excitement, when the noise of
a light footstep is distracting. In such a condition were the
authors of the Tracts in 1833, and all their subsequent pro-
ceedings have shown that the disorder was still upon them.
Beset by their horror of the nineteenth century, they sought for
something most opposite to it, and therefore they turned to what
they called Christian antiquity. Had they judged of their own
times, had they appreciated the good of the nineteenth century,
as well as its evil, they would have looked for their remedy not
to the second or third or fourth centuries, but the first ; they
would have tried to restore, not the Church of Cyprian, or
Athanasius, or Augustine, but the Church of St. Paul and of
St. John. Now, this it is most certain that they have not done.
Their appeal has been not to Scripture, but to the opinions and
practices of the dominant party in the ancient Church. They
hare endeavored to set those opinions and practices, under the
name of Apostolical tradition, on a level with the authority of
the Scriptures. But their unfortunate excitement has made
them fail of doing even what they intended to do. It may be
true that all their doctrines may be found in the writings of
those whom they call the Fathers ; but the effect of their teaching
is different because its proportions are altered. Along with
their doctrines, there are other points and another spirit promi*

Digitized by


42 Arnold's Sermons. [Jan.

nent in the writings of the earlier Christians, which give to the
whole a different complexion. The Tracts for the Times do not
appear to me to represent faithfully the language of Christian
antiquity ; they are rather its caricature." — pp. xx — xxii.

In preaching, as they do, " apostolical succession " and
the power of the clergy, Professor Arnold says, Mr. New-
man and his friends preach themselves, and not Christ.
He proceeds,

" Again, the system which they hold up as * better and deeper
than satisfied the last century' is a remedy which has been tried
once already : and its failure was so palpable, that all the evil of
the eighteenth century was but the reaction from that enormous
evil which this remedy, if it be any, had at any rate been power-
less to cure. Apostolical succession, the dignity of the clergy,
the authority of the Church, were triumphantly maintained for
several centuries ; and their full development was coincident, to
say the least, with the corruption alike of Christ's religion and
Christ's church. So far were they from tending to realize the
promises of prophecy, to perfect Christ's body up to the mea-
sure of the stature of Christ's own fulness, that Christ's Church
declined during their ascendancy more and more; — she fell
alike from truth and from holiness ; and these doctrines, if they
did not cause the evil, were at least quite unable to restrain it.
For, in whatever points the fifteenth century differed from the
fourth, it cannot be said that it upheld the apostolical succession
less peremptorily, or attached a less value to Church tradition and
Church authority. I am greatly understating the case, but I
am content for the present to do so: I will not say that Mr.
Newman's favorite doctrines were the very Antichrist which
corrupted Christianity ; I will only say that they did not prevent
its corruption, — that when they were most exalted. Christian
truth and Christian goodness were most depressed." — pp. xxviii,

In regard to the necessity of apostolical succession to
give efficacy to the sacraments, he says, that there are no
words of Jesus from which such a doctrine "can be
deduced either probably or plausibly ; none from which it
could be even conjectured that such a tenet had ever been
in existence."

The following is in a tone of great earnestness and
benevolence, and shows the moral aspects under which the
author was accustomed to view the Oxford assumptions,
and the broad principles by which he judged of the truth or
falsehood of a doctrine. There is a moral element which

Digitized by


1844.] Moral Character of Puseyum. 43

belongs to all reUgious truth, which we do not find in the
doctrines of Puseyism.

"When we look at the condition of our country; at the
poverty and wretchedness of so large a portion of the working
classes ; at the intellectual and moral evils which certainly exist
among the poor, but by no means amongst the poor only;
and when we witness the many partial attempts to remedy
these evils — attempts benevolent indeed and wise, so far as
they go, but utterly unable to strike to the heart of the
mischief; can any Christian doubt that here is the work for
the church of Christ to do; that none else can do it; and
that with the blessing of her Almighty Head she can. Looking
upon the chaos around us, one power alone can reduce it
into order, and fill it with light and life. And does he really
apprehend the perfections and high calling of Christ's church ;
does he indeed fathom the depths of man's wants, or has he
learnt to rise to the fulness of the stature of their divine remedy,
who comes forward to preach to us the necessity of apostolical
succession ? Grant even that it was of Divine appointment, still
as it is demonstrably and palpably unconnected with holiness,
as it would be a mere positive and ceremonial ordinance, it
cannot be the point of most importance to insist on ; even if it
be a sin to neglect this, there are so many far weightier matters
equally neglected, that it would be assuredly no Christian
prophesying which were to strive to direct our chief attention
to this. But the wholly unmoral character of this doctrine,
which, if it were indeed of God, would make it a single myste-
rious exception to all the other doctrines of the Gospel, is, God
be thanked, not more certain than its total want of external
evidence; the Scriptures disclaims it, Christ himself con-
demns it." — pp. Ixv — Ixvii.

Our next extract is from the Notes at the end of the
volume, and we wish we had room for more, especially on
the historical evidence of the Scriptures, on faith, and
rationalism. But we must content ourselves with the fol-
lowing, relating to one of the objections to the principle of
the High-Church party, that is, its " extreme vagueness," in
reference to the authority of antiquity.

" What is primitive antiquity ? and where is its authority to
be found? Does 'primitive antiquity' mean the first three
centuries ? or the first two 1 or the first five ? or the first seven ?
Does it include any of the general councils ? or one of them 1
or four? or six? Are IrensBus and Tertullian the latest writers
of 'primitive antiquity?' or does it end with Augustine? oc

Digitized by


44 Arnold's Sermons. [Jan.

does it comprehend the venerable Bede ? One writer has lately
told us, that our Reformers wished the people to be taught,
* that, for almost seven hundred years, the Church was most
pure.' Are we then, to hold that * primitive antiquity' em-
braces a period of nearly seven centuries? Seven centuries
are considerably more than a third part of the whole duration
of the Church, from its foundation to this hour : can the third
part of a nation's history be called its primitive antiquity?
Is a tenet, or a practice taught when Christianity had been
more than six hundred years in the world, to be called primitive ?
We know not then, in the first place, what length of time is
signified by * primitive antiquity.'

** But let it signify any length of time we choose, I ask, next,
where is its authority to be found? In the decisions of the
general councils ? But if we call the first four centuries * prim-
itive antiquity,' we find in this period only two general councils ;
if we include the fifth century, we get four ; if we take in the
sixth and seventh centuries, we have then, in all, six general
councils. Will the decisions of any, or all, of these six coun-
cils furnish us with an authoritative interpretation of Scripture ?
They give us the Nicene and the Constantinopolitan creeds;
they condemn various notions with respect to the person of our
Lord, and to some other points of belief; and they contain a
variety of regulations for the discipline and order of the Church ;
but, with the exception of some particular passages, there is no
authority in the creeds, or canons, or anathemas of these coun-
cils, for the interpretation of Scripture ; they leave its difllicul-
ties just where they were before. It is but little, then, which
the first six generaJ councils will do towards providing the stu-
dent of Scripture with an infallible standard of interpretation.

" Where, however, except in the councils, can we find any
thing claiming to be the voice of the Church? Neither indi-
vidual writers, nor yet all the writers of the first seven centu-
ries together, can properly be called the Church. They form,
even all together, but a limited number of individuals who, in
different countries, and at different periods, expressed, in writing,
their own sentiments, but without any public authority. Origen,
one of the ablest and most learned of them all, was anathe-
matized by the second council of Constantinople; Tertullian
was heretical during a part of his life; Lactantius was taxed
with heterodoxy. How are we to know who were sound ? And
if sound generally, that is to say, if they stand charged with no
heretical error, yet it does not follow that a man is infallible
because he is not heretical ; and none of these writers have
been distinguished like the five great Roman lawyers whom the
edict of Theodosius selected from the mass, and gave to their
decisions a legal authority. Or, again, if it be said that the

Digitized by


1 844.] The Book of Life. 45

agreement of the great majority of them is to be regarded as
decisive, we answer, that as no individual amongst them is in
himself an authority legally, so neither can any number of them
be so; and if a moral authority only be meant, such as we
naturally ascribe to the concurring judgment of many eminent
men, then this is a totally different question, and is open to
inquiry in every separate case ; for as, on the one hand, no one
denies that such a concurring judgment is on authority, yet, oa
the other hand, it may be outweighed, either by the worth of
the few who differ from the judgment, or by the reason of the
case itself; and the concurring judgment of the majority may
show no more than the force of a general prejudice, which only
a few individuals were sensible enough to resist. — ^pp. 470-472. /

A. L. - "-<

Art. v. — the BOOK OF LIFE.

The thought of accountableness is ever present in the
minds of all rational beings. Somewhere and in some way
our deeds and thoughts are recorded, so that every wrong
action and every impure imagination will come into judg-
ment. Whether of good or of evil, there is nothing hid that
shall not be revealed and come abroad.

Perhaps the only form which this conception can take in
the minds of the young is, that God writes down our whole
history in a book of eternal record. The idea that spiritual
messengers are all around us, that they take knowledge of
every new-born thought, every rising emotion, and every ac-
tion that bodies them forth, and thence wing their way to that
awful presence with their burden of sorrow or of joy ; that
they " give in" the sins of men with tears of grief and tinges
of shame, but all pure and virtuous actions with quick
movements and rejoicing spirits, — this is an idea which
has been to us of magical potency in many an hour of
temptation, and of fearful recollection and foreboding in the
day of remorse. The thought of the judgment-seat and the
books that are to be opened, — and that all these are to be
read in our ears by the dread angel, and so truly and per-
fectly, that every word will carry its own convictions to the
heart, — is a mighty persuasive to well-doing.

Digitized by


46 Ths Book of Life. [Jan.

Perhaps the first refinement which we make upon these
impressions of our childhood is, that the record of our crimes
and virtues is to be found in that general result — our own
characters. Upon these every thought and volition have a
bearing. At any given period of our existence, whether
here or hereafter, we shall be what we have made ourselves
by all the crimes and virtues that went before. " The child
is father of the man," and so is the man of the immortal.
Childhood has the formation of youth, youth of manhood,
and manhood of age, and childhood, youth, manhood, and
age are but successive waves in that never-ceasing tide that
rolls onward its resistless waters, till they stir the vast ocean
of eternity. How does every thing of the present in our
voluntary history tell with inconceivable importance upon
an everlasting futurity.

And do even these conceptions reach the full truth of the
matter ? We think not. They give the general doctrine,
but there are many things included under it, which are yet
to be brought forth in terrible distinctness. The human
memory — how little do we yet know of its higher laws !
It is a power more dignified than that of prophecy, for it
clothes man in attributes more solemn and responsible.
Though so little understood, yet we obtain fitful gleams
and fore-splendors of its higher offices, which make us
tremble when we think we are men.

There is an obvious distinction observed in all mental
philosophy between memory and recollection. Memory is
not an active power of the mind, but the passive repository
of all the facts of past experience, whether inward or out-
ward, — all thoughts, emotions, and states of mind, as well
as all words and determinate actions. Recollection is the
faculty which calls up these from their places of repose ;
which evokes them from their dim, and perhaps long for-
gotten cells, and brings them up again into the clear light
of the consciousness. And now — these are the questions
we tremble to ask — is there any thing which a mortal man
can think, or speak, or do, which can perish from the
memory ? And is there any thing in the memory, which
recollection may not seize upon and drag forth into the
most central and burning light of self-consciousness ? —
To both these questions we think the answer is. No. We
doubt whether any fact, however trivial, into which the

Digitized by


1844.] The Book of Life. 47

soul has once passed by its own free volitions, can after-
wards perish from the memory, any more than the small-
est atom once created by the fiat of God can of itself fall
into non-existence. We find, moreover, from the experi-
ence of minds, even when clogged and overlaid with matter,
that they are capable of being excited to such a degree of
intensity that long forgotten images come thronging back
upon them, when even childhood pours its long-lost treas-
ures upon the reviving remembrances of age. Is it not
owing to this law in its more beneficent operations, that
words of tenderness and lessons of maternal love come
back to the mind of the hoary prodigal with moving elo-
quence, even from the years of infancy ? Is it not true,
that in the sunny period of our childhood, when our " an-
gels do always behold the face of our Father in heaven "
and breathe celestial whisperings through our spiritual
natures, good impressions without number and thoughts of
purity and counsels of wisdom from teacher and parent are
treasured up in our memories ; that though buried and for-
gotten long afterwards when we walk through the valley of
sin, yet they are never lost ? It is among these as among
the embers of a buried flame that the Holy Spirit moves,
waking the prodigal to a sense of his guilt and caUing him
back to the house of his Father. These early treasures,
thus lost and brought to light again, are the foundation of
Plato's doctrine of " Reminiscence," Swedenborg's doc-
trine of "Remains," and of the high and almost divine
philosophy shadowed forth in Wordsworth's Evening Ode
and in that on the early intimations of immortality. The
poet is gazing upon the glories of an evening sky, when, if
ever, we seem to stand before the gates of Paradise and
feel its peace pass into our souls. " The shadow and the
peace supreme " revive the purest thoughts and recollec-
tions of the primal innocence of human nature.

" Such hues from their celestial urn
Were wont to stream before mine eye,
Where'er I wandered in the morn
Of blissful infancy.
This glimpse of glory, why renewed?
Nay, rather speak with gratitude ;
For, if a vestige of those gleams
Surviyed, 'twas only in my dreams.

Digitized by


48 The Book of Ltfe. [Jan.

Dread Power ! whom peace and calmness serve
No less than nature's threatening voice,
If aught unworthy be my choice,
From Thee if I would swerve,
Oh, let thy grace remind me of the light,
Full early lost, and fruitlessly deplored ;
Which at this moment on my waking sight
Appears to shine, by miracle restored !"

How beautiful the doctrine! how encouraging to the
good ! These are the treasures laid up in heaven, which
moth cannot corrupt and which thieves cannot plunder.
Yea, not a word of pious counsel or heavenly wisdom which
the Sabbath school teacher breathes into the ear of the
child, can ever be lost. And some time — far on in the
course of years — it may awake in the dormitory of the soul
and speak in angel-accents and prevail.

We may look at this law in another of its applications.
View it in connection with the great subject of retribution.

Online LibraryEzra Stiles Gannett Alvan LamsonThe Christian examiner and religious miscellany, Volume 36 → online text (page 5 of 46)