THE PROGRESS OF
THE PLAN OF REDEMPTION.
RT. REV. B. B. SMITH, D.D., LL.D.
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2013
VIGOROUS intellects, familiar with the most important facts of History, going back to the earliest times, are irresistibly impelled to construct some theory which will connect the events transpiring in one age and country with those everywhere continually transpiring, into one connected and harmonious whole.
It is the Providential History of the Human Race, and forms the proper Subject of that grand study, the Philosophy of History. In times not very remote, it has occupied the attention of some of the most gifted minds of the different Nations of Europe, under the various divisions of Ancient and Modern, of Eastern or Asiatic and Western or European, of Greek and Roman, and many others.
More recently the theory of Development has assumed unusual prominence, under the divisions of Races and Languages, of conquests, emigration, colonization and commerce. To some minds, the sum of the whole matter is that the subject is too vast and complicated, the life of man too short and the powers of his mind too limited ever to come to satisfactory results.
The Divine Mind alone is capable of fathoming and explaining these profound mysteries; and the Christian Philosopher firmly believes that by divine Revelation He has furnished the cue by which most of these difficulties can be solved, and that is in the Plan of Redemption, which began when the need of it began; which has run through and been connected with all human events, and will continue to pervade and mould them till time shall be no more.
 The title of this Article is derived from a remarkable Volume, the Author of which, Isaac Taylor, ranks high amongst the best thinkers of our times. He thinks it appropriate to an age when the greatest events amongst all the Nations of the Earth seem to be verging to one grand result, the dawn of a brighter day upon the darkness, oppression and misery of the human race; the Sabbath day, after the long week of human toil and suffering.
Waiving, just here, the question of the truth of the Mosaic account of the fall of Adam, he must be a bold disputant indeed who should express a doubt as to the fact of the depraved disposition, wicked lives, and deplorable condition of the great body of the people, of every race, in every clime, and under any form of Government which has, as yet, prevailed.
And surely it is no stretch of wild conjecture, if there be a Supreme Ruler of the Universe, that, in His infinite compassion, He should provide a remedy adapted to the amelioration of the condition of the Human Family; capable of elevating its nature to the standard of a noble manhood; informing the ignorance, and reforming the wrongs, oppressions and miseries of the downcast and oppressed, and transforming the inner and spiritual part into the image of the heavenly, and making it meet to enjoy the inheritance of a pure and perfect immortal life.
I assume the fact that the All-merciful God, our Saviour, has actually done this, and that the only basis of the true Philosophy of History is the History of the Plan of Redemption as revealed in the Word of God.
In unfolding his idea of the method of this plan, the writer will venture to divide it into three parts, each comprehending a period of 2,000 years. (1.) From Adam to Abraham, a time during which our race was without a visible Church, or any covenant relations with God. (2.) From Abraham to Christ, a local, national Church, the seal of whose covenant, and whose worship, was bloody and temporary. (3.) From Christ to the [4/5] close of this dispensation, a visible Church, the seal of whose Covenant is unbloody, whose worship is spiritual, whose limits are universal, whose life perpetual.
FIRST PERIOD.—MONDAY AND TUESDAY.
From Adam to Abraham, 2,000 years.
None of the Monuments or Records of the years before the flood (say 1,600) have come down to us. To arrive at a knowledge of the facts for which we are in search we must take for granted what Cuvier and most of the Geologists admit, that about 6,000 years ago there was a submersion of the greater part of the then known world very like Deucalion's or Noah's Flood, of which there is no ancient Nation which has not traditions wonderfully resembling each other.
The drift of this Article requires that we assume that the account of it given by Moses is substantially correct, and by far the most authentic of any extant. It states, what, in some form, must have taken place, that the few survivors must have told their children, and they their children, all they knew about this terrible calamity. Accepting the genealogies given by Moses, it would require but a few lives to have transmitted a knowledge of facts transpiring in the lifetime of Adam to his not very remote descendant Noah; and very few, indeed, between Noah and Moses.
Those who accept the Five Books of Moses as the Record of a Divine Revelation, will have no hesitation in accepting his testimony as to the moral causes which constrained the Creator of the World to visit it with so signal and awful a punishment. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Gen. vi, 6.) "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence: and [5/6] God looked upon the earth and behold it was corrupt: for all flesh corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me: for the earth is filled with violence through them: and behold I will destroy them with the earth." (Gen. vi, 11, 12, 13.)
A more fruitful subject for speculation can hardly be conceived, than, how it came to pass that, in 1,500 years, the human race had fallen into such utter degeneracy and decay; for who can doubt that a benevolent God made man to be happy, or call in question what is written in Ecclesiastes, vii, 29: "Lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." His compassion saw that a remedy was needed, and the Plan of Redemption was devised, whose footsteps we are tracing.
The prodigious longevity of the Antediluvians is rendered highly probable by the necessity of the case, that they might the sooner "multiply and replenish the earth." (Gen. ix, 1.) But the sooner that end was accomplished the sooner a wide scope was furnished for the play of those strong and wild passions of an evil nature which finally brought about their ruin. Think of the wide-spread misery which a crafty, greedy, cruel and avaricious man might inflict, to whom so long a life as 400 or 500 years should be given for the perfecting and carrying out his nefarious schemes. Might not Alexander the Great, or the proud Napoleon, in such a period have effected the conquest of the world, and riveted the chains of an inexorable despotism upon subject Nations?
And all this without the Inspired Word, or a divinely constituted Ministry, or appointed services of worship, or seals to a covenant, or holy days, or solemn assemblies. Take these from any people, and in how few years they would become corrupt, cruel and licentious, we are taught by the experience of Paris not a long time ago. They were, then, without a Church or any covenant relation to God.
 But even through all these ages, abandoned of God to themselves as they were, a seed of piety like that of Abel, compared with murderous Cain, was to be found, here and there, amongst those who were called the "Sons of God" in contrast with the "Sons of Men," amongst whom we find such as "Enoch who walked with God, and was not for God took him," (Gen. v, 24.) and "Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord." (Gen. vi, 8th.) So, if they were not all good, they were without excuse, and the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost.
Having set before all races of men through all the ages, their terrible degeneracy when left to themselves, it behooved His divine wisdom and mercy to sweep them from the scenes and the theatre of their crimes, and to take an uncorrupt scion of that race; to plant it in new and virgin soil, and to favor it with a far different culture; and to help man towards his recovery, with all the helps possible, in such an age, with such surroundings. In other words, in order to prepare the way for a new and more perfect, spiritual and universal movement, he introduced the Old, a national and local Covenant, with a bloody seal and sacrifices.
WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY,
From Abraham to Christ, 2,000 years.
If we may venture to judge what the Plan of Redemption was, as it existed in the Divine mind, by the gradual slow development of it, in its various stages, we should be led to the conclusion that the covenant with Abraham and the Mosaic Dispensation had in view a better state of morals, and to that end the destruction of Idolatry.
The means to that end, the Patriarchal System, or family religion, and a Theocracy founded upon the idea of one only true God; fortified by being local and national, creating a [7/8] peculiar people, whose Temple, and whose religious worship, according to the taste and genius of the age, were more splendid and magnificent than any Idol of the Heathen World.
For the 300 years and more between Noah and the call of Abraham, whilst the new earth was being repeopled, tribes floating to different regions seem to have been left very much to themselves, to retain, pervert or discard what portions they pleased of the Noahtic Revelation. That they retained much is abundantly proved by the close resemblance between the traditions, fables and worship of all Ancient Nations. This was abundantly proved by the laborious and exhaustive work of Bryant, and after him of Mr. Faber, on all Heathen Mythologies; and is now being brought before the minds of the lovers of Antiquity in the very able and interesting work of Dr. Lundy, on the Monumental Evidence of Christian Doctrine.
During these ages, wherever multitudes most congregated, as in Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Cities of the Plain, far from having taken warning by the destruction of a whole generation of evil men, they followed the impulses and dictates of their sinful nature; and their sin became very grievous, and cried aloud for punishment; and because not even ten righteous men could be found within these Cities, the wrath of God fell upon them to the uttermost.
It was at this juncture, and near the scene of this awful visitation, that Abraham was chosen to be the Father of God's faithful covenant people; and the reason given for it, is "I know Abraham, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." (Gen. xviii, 19.)
The Patriarchal system, maintaining and enforcing Family Religion, effectually secured these ends as long as his descendants continued to be a Pastoral People.
But no such people can become a great nation. In order that his seed should inherit the promise, when they numbered [8/9] but seventy persons, they went down into Egypt; and there in the course of 430 years they became a great nation; and though for many years a nation of slaves, they learned the very lessons, from the most civilized Nation of those times, which fitted them to become an agricultural and commercial people. The records of no nation, either of ancient or modern times, contain anything so wonderful as the deliverance of the Children of Israel out of Egypt; their sojourn of forty years in the wilderness; their conquest of Canaan; the expulsion of its inhabitants; and the occupation of that particular portion of the earth best fitted for a people who were to be the instruments in the hands of God of destroying false Gods, and introducing a purer, better dispensation. And yet, though there is no portion of History more ancient, there is none more authentic;—the evidence of which in documents, traditions, monuments, rites and ceremonies is so abundant. The facts cannot be better stated than in the words of the Deliverer of his people and the Author of its early History. "For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the Day that God created man upon the Earth, and ask from one side of Heaven to the other, whether there has been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?" * * * "Hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched-out arm, and by great terrors, according to all the Lord thy God did for you in Egypt before your eyes." * * * "Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath: there is none else. Thou shalt keep therefore, His statutes, and His commandments which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth which the Lord thy God giveth thee forever." (Deut. iv, 32, 34, 39, 40.)
 After the struggles for the peaceful possession of the Promised Land were in great measure over, and that prolific race had increased and multiplied exceedingly, they appear to have settled down upon a well regulated Tribal Democracy, guided by that summary of Moral Law, the Ten Commandments, which continues to this day to contain the leading principles of the jurisprudence of all the most enlightened Nations of the Earth. Matters in detail were regulated by the provisions of Ritual and Worship. There was, in graver matters, a final appeal to Urim and Thummim; or direct manifestation of the Divine Will. This gave to the government under the Judges, and until the people, rebelliously and madly, asked for a King to rule over them, the not inappropriate title of a Theocracy. It is quite evident that as long as Worship in the original Tabernacle continued, and family religion and instruction were maintained, the two ends of the first or Jewish Dispensation were, to a considerable extent, secured; the avoidance of Idolatry; the worship of the one only true God; and a very remarkable elevation of National Morality, and domestic purity and happiness, far above the level of any of the surrounding Nations.
But the splendors of a Monarchical or Imperial Government, and abounding wealth, the consequence of great conquests, and of a vast and profitable commerce, so early as under Solomon, only the third upon her kingly throne, Israel gave itself up to luxury, and all those immoralities which made them an easy prey to the seductions of Idolatry. The struggle went on through many successive Reigns, which ended in their being given up to the will of their Idolatrous neighbors. The terrible discipline of the 70 years' captivity at Babylon, effected, at last, a thorough cure of this strange tendency to Idolatry. With that race, the question of the worship of one God was settled. Through them, this knowledge extended to the kindred Tribe of Ishmael. And this vantage ground was gained for the introduction of the second, or New Covenant.
 Much, also, was gained, by the captivity, in extending the knowledge of this one, only true God, amongst the most advanced and powerful of the neighboring Nations. Among the children of the Captivity, no distinguished captive figures so largely as the Prophet Daniel. He has recorded two Proclamations, under two dynasties, which were issued in connection with his own remarkable history and experience.
The first was issued by Nebuchadnezzar after his restoration to reason and his throne. "And at the end of the days I lifted up mine eyes unto Heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High and I praised and honored Him who liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His Kingdom from generation to generation." * * * "And now I praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment; and those who walk in pride, He is able to abase." (Daniel, iv, 34, 37.)
After the wonderful deliverance of the Prophet out of the hand of his enemies "the King Darius wrote unto all people, nations and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied unto you; I make a decree, that, in every dominion of my kingdom, men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God, and steadfast forever, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth and He worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions." (Dan. vi, 25-6-7.)
Thus, as the Plan of Redemption was slowly unfolding, and the dawn of a better day began to break upon poor, oppressed humanity, the knowledge of the True God began to spread amongst the Nations, and the hope of a Great Deliverer, cherished amongst all people, since the first promise to the Mother of all mankind, "That the seed of the Woman should bruise the Serpent's heal," [11/12] began to assume a more definite shape. So that Haggai, one of the last of the Prophets, who, by means of the captivity, was well aware of the sentiments of the people of the whole World then known, records this as one of the sayings of the God of Israel;—"I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all Nations shall come." (Hag. ii, 7.)
With Plato, it was to be the Prince of Philosophers, who would establish his Ideal Republic. With Virgil, it was that the Son of Augustus should be the beneficent Ruler of Universal Rome. Through all the long period of their oppression, the Jews were quite sure of the appearance of a mighty Deliverer; this was their leading idea with regard to their long expected Messiah. After his coming in great humility, his very disciples thought that "His kingdom would immediately appear," (Luke, xix, 11) and even after the crucifixion of their Lord and His glorious resurrection, so blind were they that when they saw Him they asked, "Lord! wilt thou at this time restore the Kingdom again to Israel?" (Acts, i, 6.)
These facts are recorded in documents whose authenticity cannot be denied even by those who do not believe in their divine inspiration; and are intimately connected with another series of facts of incalculable value in the study of the Philosophy of the History of the times, between the close of the Sacred History of the Jews and the opening of the Books of the New Testament. Connected with preparations necessary for the introduction of a new and more perfect dispensation; and for preparing the way for its dissemination and final triumph, these events become matters of transcendent importance. Whereas, in themselves, the wars of the Maccabees with the successors of Alexander the Great, their dissensions, reverses and final subjugation by the gigantic power of Rome, would render that portion of History the most dull and least interesting of that period; but taken in connection with the unfolding and growth of God's wonderful plan for the Redemption of a miserable world, [12/13] there is no period more worthy of our study, or better fitted to fill us with wonder, at the wisdom and mercy of the methods which brought about results wholly undesigned by the chief actors. We notice, first, how far back the Greek language began to take the place of the Hebrew, and its Syriac dialect, as a more suitable vehicle for a more spiritual class of ideas, to become the subjects of faith and rule of practice under a New Dispensation. How widely it was disseminated as the Hebrew became a dead language, and before the Latin had attained its higher polish; and how much better, in the hands of that exquisitely Philosophic Race, for the expression of such niceties of belief as those contained in the Nicene Creed. And if it be thought that this was rather unfortunate than otherwise, still it must be admitted that the establishment of the Christian Religion in Syria and Asia Minor was a necessity, as the base of operations along all the shores of the Mediterranean.
The Plan of Redemption, the steps of whose progress we are tracing, was, of course, altogether supernatural, attended all along with marvelous, and not infrequent miraculous attestations—needful to make known to its agents and actors the parts they were to take in carrying out the Plan. Revelations from God were required, and, in the course of time, it became absolutely necessary that there should be a well authenticated Record of these Revelations. Such are the Old and New Testament Scriptures; accurate and reliable as to every important fact beyond any other History of those times. The oldest Record was not begun by Abraham, with whom the Covenant was first made. Perhaps language had not yet become sufficiently perfect, and certainly Records would not have been safe in the hands of migratory shepherds. So the work was deferred for 400 or 500 years, reserved for the pen of Moses, "who was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," the most cultivated people of that time;—and soon, when his followers became the [13/14] inhabitants of fenced cities, these Records were committed to the charge of a distinct order of learned men, the Scribes, keepers of these precious documents. In proportion as their safety was endangered, by war, by conflagrations, and during their captivity, a veneration for them amounting to a superstition, grew up, so that in their transcription every word and letter was counted. We are absolutely certain that no Records, even of a much later date, have been so accurately kept and so well preserved as the sacred writings of the Hebrews.
This was absolutely necessary, since proofs drawn from them become the immovable basis of the evidence in favor of the Records of the New Dispensation. In other words, a connecting link must be formed and proved between the Jewish and Christian Records.
This was effected, several hundred years before the Records of the New Testament were begun, by the translation of the Hebrew of the Old Testament into Greek, the dominant language of the era and for a long time after; the very language in which almost every Book of the New Testament was to be written; the language of all the States in which Christianity was first to be planted.
In all History, no event stands out with such singular prominence as the Septuagint Translation of the Old Testament. How came it to pass that the Historic and Poetic Works of the most despised and down-trodden people on earth, should have become so popular that the literati of one of the most celebrated Schools of Greek Learning should have desired a translation of the Books of these barbarians into their own classical vernacular? And that Ptolemy, one of the greatest Patrons of learning, should have employed the most learned men anywhere to be found, who understood both languages, to undertake this work for him?
And, for providential ends in view, it was necessary that the Translators should be Jews in order that there should be [14/15] nothing there unfavorable to their race, not in the original. It was important that it should be widely disseminated before the Apostles commenced their missionary work, for amongst the Jews their arguments and appeals were drawn from their own Scriptures; and no learned Jew would dare to say that the quotations of the Apostles were not fairly made, or that the translation they used was not faithful and true.
The Jews did not cease to exist as a nation until after the destruction of their Temple, nor as the Covenant People of God until after the Resurrection of our Blessed Lord, and his commissioning the Eleven as the Apostles of a New, Spiritual and more Perfect Dispensation. Here closed the second period of Two Thousand Years; and the way was prepared for the appearance of Him who had become the Desire of all Nations, the founder of a spiritual kingdom which shall end only when all nations shall call Him Lord.
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY.
From Christ to the Dawn of the Millennium, 2,000 years.
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." (Heb. i, 1, 2.) "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that are under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Gal. iv, 4.)
THE INCARNATION OF THE SON OF GOD! The most wonderful fact in the History of our Race, as much beyond our comprehension as beyond the measure of our faith, were it not attested by a fullness of evidence unequaled by any other fact of History. "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: [15/16] God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory!" (I Tim. iii, 16.)
The Incarnation of the Son of God is the foundation-stone in the whole Plan of Redemption. It was not until after the day of Pentecost, however, that the Apostles began to comprehend that the Kingdom their divine Master came to establish was not a temporal but a spiritual Kingdom; nor, indeed, was it until after the vision of Peter, and the call of St. Paul, that their minds were sufficiently enlarged to take in all nations. But when they did, it was natural for them to expect the sudden conversion of the world and the promised second coming of their Lord.
But it was not thus that the Plan of Redemption was to be carried out. Means to that end, and human means, were to be provided, working uniformly, though occasionally with extraordinary divine power, amongst, and in accordance with, the laws of human advancement.
Agents to carry on the work were to be appointed, and the Apostles were chosen and commissioned. Documentary evidence of the Incarnation, mission and teaching of their Master was to be provided, and the Four Gospels were written. The Records of their first journeys, their teaching, their experience, their success, and the Letters they wrote were to be collected, as most of them were, as we now find them in the New Testament, before the death of St. John, the last survivor of the first College of Apostles.
The appointed human means, then, for carrying out the Plan of Salvation after the Ascension of our Blessed Lord, were a ministry (which preceded the written word), the diffusion of the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testament in a language understood by the people, the preaching of the Gospel with the administration of the Two Sacraments, and the religious instruction of the children of believers.
 By these instrumentalities the Gospel was preached, and a well-organized Church somewhat firmly established, in nearly every Province of the Roman Empire, before the year two hundred of our era.
The progress of Christianity, though upon the whole, steady, was yet, alternately, helped or retarded, by the rise and fall of Empires, by the favor or frowns of Princes, by war and the incursion of barbarous tribes, by the flow and reflux of vast tides of emigration; and, in describing them, History has furnished us with the means of grouping these events into periods, and of these use will be made in tracing the development of the Plan of Redemption through the third period of 2,000 years.
The First Period, about 300 years, from the Ascension of our Lord to the reign of Constantine, the Evangelical period.
The Second Period, from Constantine to the claim of temporal power by the Pope, and the rise of Mohammedism, another 300 years.
The Third Period, from Gregory the Great to the year 900, another 300 years, bringing us to the middle of the dark ages, the period of ecclesiastical assumption and abuses and also of feudal tyranny and oppression.
The Fourth Period, from 900 to 1200, gradual emergence from the darkest ages; the Crusades and the influence of the culture of the Saracens on European science, art, architecture &c.
The Fifth Period, 1200 to 1500, preparation for the Great Reformation, revival of learning, Wickliffe, Huss and others.
The Sixth Period, 1500 to 1800, from the Reformation to the present century; Luther, Cranmer, Calvin, Knox; the Gospel beginning to shine forth in some of its primitive clearness and purity.
The Seventh Period brings us to the opening of the present Century, extending a little into the Millennial period, distinguished by such marks as these: Never before did commerce, [17/18] conquest and colonization in the hands of the most vigorous race so rapidly extend the bounds of Christendom; never before were the means of carrying on this work, enumerated in a former paragraph, employed to so great an extent and with such untiring energy. The Missionaries of the Cross can now be found in the remotest corners of the Globe. The Bible has been translated into the languages of every numerous race. The sacraments are almost everywhere duly administered; and the religious education of the young has become one of the first concerns of the greatest Nations.
The First Period, from the Ascension of Our Lord to the reign of Constantine, 300 years.
The way for the introduction of Christianity had long been prepared before the humble disciples of Christ were sent forth upon what human reason would have pronounced their hopeless mission. Philosophy had already repudiated the claims of the false Gods of Greece and Rome. The extreme corruption of manners, the luxury and dissolute lives of the rich and powerful, and the degradation and abject misery of the poor, called loudly for some remedy, and so the expectation of a change had become universal, and the advent of a deliverer confidently expected and ardently longed for.
Favorable as all these circumstances were, the array of opposing forces was most formidable. The power of the Scribes and Pharisees, backed by the Roman Authorities, constrained Paul, the chief of the Apostles, after suffering severe persecutions at their hands, deliberately to turn to the Gentiles; but there, also, wickedness in high places, and the jealousy of the Priests of the false Gods, enlisted the Civil Power against the poor Christians, and stirred up no less than ten fierce persecutions against them before the Church found rest under Constantine.
Truth founded upon Facts is always found to be stronger than [18/19] any combination of forces to put it down, especially if it be a vital and life-giving Truth; and such is the Truth of Christianity, the only Religion which has obtained amongst men founded upon Facts. The first unlettered Missionaries went forth simply to spread abroad a knowledge of the facts of which they were witnesses. What life-giving Facts they were—the Incarnation of the Son of God—His willingly offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world—His cruel death—His Resurrection from the dead, and His ascension into Heaven; which to every one that hears them, believes and realizes their value and their true import, are made the power of God unto salvation.
St. Paul had the philosophical mind to comprehend these facts; and the command of an irresistible eloquence, in the use of the most perfect of all languages for his purpose, to state the case, thus: "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." (I Cor. i, 21, 22, 23, 24.)
This method of reaching and relieving the woes of suffering humanity, which was God's method, from first to last was supernatural, and from time to time as they were needed, it was fitting that the ministry of angels and the working of miracles should be employed. The Jews expected them of their Messiah, and though not wrought at their dictation, or to make himself a kind of demigod, or to defeat the designs of his enemies, they were wrought in the manner best fitted to prove his mission from on high, and to disclose the character of the true Messiah.
It was equally fitting that the witnesses of His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension should be able to give like evidence [19/20] that they were true witnesses:—"God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will." (Heb. ii, 4.) Always used sparingly, unselfishly, beneficently, it was a wonderfully effectual way, in that age, and amongst an ignorant people, always, like the Athenians, filled with curiosity about some new thing, to draw the attention of the multitude, and to dispose them to listen favorably to the remarkable story they had to tell. Thus they threw into the shade, and brought to shame, the lying miracles of the soothsayers and astrologers. And these gifts continued through the apostolic age, perhaps a little longer, as long, according to a not unreasonable conjecture, as they were needed to secure to the New Religion so firm a footing and so strong a hold upon the deepest convictions of many of the wise and good; and of so great a multitude of the common people, as safely to be left to the common providence of God and the omnipotence of truth in the hands of honest, blameless and zealous advocates.
Not only was this the case through all the persecutions of this early period, but these very persecutions were overruled to the advancement of the cause they were designed to crush; the meekness and non-resistance of the sufferers, the heroism manifested, not only by strong men, wrought up to a strong enthusiasm, but of feeble old age, of refined and delicate women, and even of innocent children, under most cruel forms of bodily suffering; but the firmness of their confession of the truth, and often exultation and triumph in the hour of death, filled all with astonishment, melted many hearts in pity, and compelled multitudes to inquire what these things meant. In times like these that saying had its origin, "The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church."
In quite another way, milder but not less powerful, the influence of Christianity made itself felt; their common difficulties and trials, their often meeting as exiles in strange lands, [20/21] the offices and worship of their holy religion, and above all the injunctions of their Lord, bound them together as one family. "See how these Christians love one another," was the expression of wonder from their neighbors, and this sweetly drew all loving natures to their fellowship. Thus the Gospel of Peace "mightily grew and prevailed."
The Second Period, from Constantine to the claim of temporal power by the Popes and the rise of Mohammedanism, another 300 years.
When the Imperial Government, with great moderation, but with equal firmness, exerted all its influence on the side of the lately persecuted sect, the exultation of its leaders was unbounded. Leave to build Churches was welcomed with transport:—and of the consecration of one of the first and finest, we have a full account by Eusebius, the Preacher on that occasion, and the title he gives to his sermon sounds strangely in our ears: "An Oration on the splendor of our affairs." It is a symptom of the spirit which soon began to manifest itself, in a more stately worship, a more pompous ceremonial and more costly vestments. No doubt it was attractive to the common people, and might have conciliated their superiors, but it was dangerous to the Church. From nursing Fathers to the Church, Emperors soon assumed too much of its government, which ultimately grew into that Union of Church and State of which a saintly writer not far from that time wrote in sorrow: "That day was poison poured into her bones. [* Perhaps this was later, when temporal power was conferred upon the Pope.]
If, in some respects, these were hindrances to the growth of the Church, in other respects they were great helps. But about these times there arose two evils of so great magnitude as to threaten the very existence of the Church: Arianism, the incursions of the Goths and Vandals, and the capture and the sacking of Rome. [21/22] In the one case the true spirit of the Church was thoroughly aroused, and the calamity of false doctrine ultimately averted. In the other, a moral miracle was wrought hardly less wonderful than the preservation of the Jews as a distinct people "till the fullness of time shall come." Never before did a conquering people embrace the Religion of the conquered race. In this case it was, in some degree, the victory of intellect over brute force, of refinement over barbarism;—but far more was it the triumph of a race who prized domestic purity over a people who had become utterly debauched and corrupt. The true cause, however, was the power of a Religion of Brotherly Love over a Religion which made conquest and rapine a virtue. When a conquering chief became a true Christian he could not say to his captive, Be my slave. He had been taught to regard him, not as a servant, but as a brother beloved.
Early events in the History of the Church and of nations are often the seed of things. The mingling of the blood of more honest, practical and energetic races with that of people who had grown effeminate under the influence of milder skies and voluptuous living, wrought wonders then; and is still working all over Europe and to the utmost bounds of the habitable globe.
But we are rather tracing the direct than the indirect tendency of the new influence abroad. And this we observe in three respects, the more complete organization of the Christian Church as a compact and powerful body:—the reducing to more exact forms the Articles of Belief everywhere accepted:—crowned by the efforts of distinguished Historians, Translators, Orators, and Devotional Writers, who have earned for themselves imperishable fame and whose influence is still felt wherever the name of Christ is known.
Organisation.—The Apostolic Constitution and Canons furnish conclusive evidence that Christendom was divided into Dioceses, and that the Bishops of these Dioceses, without any [22/23] pre-eminence, were as Brothers one with another, the Bishop of Eugubium, as Jerome writes, equal in all essential respects to the Bishop of Rome, were yet associated together in Provinces, owning allegiance to no visible head, but always ready to accept the decisions of a General Council. With what indignation the claim of any other headship over the Church than that of Christ was resented, even down to the close of the period before us, is proved by the strong language of Gregory the Great, when, backed as he was by the Imperial power, the proud Bishop of Constantinople brought it forward, for the first time, "Whosoever calls himself universal Bishop, or desires to be so called, in the pride of his heart, is the forerunner of Antichrist." (Hook's Ec. Bi., vol. V, p. 402.)
Creeds.—In one of the earliest and largest of the assemblages of these independent Bishops, summoned by the first Emperor who felt a deep interest in these subjects, they were asked to state the Articles of their Belief. They had no more idea of composing a Creed than they had of trying to modify or readjust the facts to which they were called together to testify; that was all. The Apostles' Creed expressed the most of them in a perfectly satisfactory way, as all, without exception, had received them. There were other points, however, upon which differences of opinion had arisen, but upon a full interchange of views the form was agreed upon, with a few corrections, made at a Council subsequently held at Constantinople, known by the name of the Nicene Creed. For more than one thousand years these two bonds held together the great body of Christian people. At the Reformation, hoping to bring about a more perfect agreement, including many minor and less important points, Confessions of Faith were drawn up, and Articles of Religion, the result of which has been, not greater agreement, but an almost endless diversity of opinion. This led the Church, corrupted by the Papacy and unreformed, to try the same expedient. The Decrees of the Council of Trent, [23/24] the Creed of Pius IV, and the monstrous additions of the Immaculate Conception, and the Infallibility of the Pope, have been the logical result. With the exception of the victims and willing dupes of these impositions, never was there a time when all other Christian people were so strongly disposed, as now, to return to these Two Ancient Creeds, as the only human utterances likely to aid in consolidating a united Christendom.
Authors.—The Father of Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, and Jerome, the Translator of the Greek of the Holy Scriptures into Latin, ever since called the Vulgate, because it gave the Word of God to the common people in the language all understood, were hardly Authors in the strictest acceptation of the term, yet they conferred greater benefits upon the Church than all other early writers combined. But one of the Controversialists of this age, Athanasius against the world; one of its Orators, Chrysostom the Golden-mouthed Bishop of the then Imperial City; and Augustin, the exquisitely tender and touching narrator of the pulsations and glow of his inner life, the life of God in the souls of all his most favored saints, have been legacies to posterity, whose value cannot easily be overestimated, and, in some respects, increasing from age to age.
The Third Period, from a little after Gregory the Great to the year 900, another 300 years, bringing us to the middle of the darkest ages.
The falling to pieces of the Great Roman Empire; the incursion and triumph of different barbarian hordes, their conflicts one with another for the division of territorial spoils, brought about a fearful state of things. "The whole creation did indeed groan together, being burdened." Cities and castles afforded no sure protection for helpless women and children. War swallowed up and devoured the chivalry of the land. The rural peasantry, oppressed and robbed, perished by pestilence and famine. The only bright spots in the whole scene is where [24/25] Christianity sheds, here and there, its divine radiance. Although Bishops, domineered over by the Pope, too often oppressed the Clergy and robbed the Poor, yet, during this period, the Pope's spiritual authority was the only restraint upon the power of Emperors, Princes and Barons when intolerably abused. Nunneries were the only sanctuaries of unprotected women. Monasteries, the only safe resort of those who sighed for a calm, heavenly and holy life.
If through these years Christianity made but little progress except so far as the intruders gradually accepted the rites and ceremonies of those whom they had conquered, yet some of its most beautiful traits shone forth with unusual brightness amidst surrounding darkness. Monasteries and nunneries performed, to a limited extent, the function of Common Schools and Seminaries for boys and girls. In their immediate neighborhood they were admirable substitutes for Poor-Laws. And though pagan literary remains of antiquity fared hard in the hands of even the most learned of the monks, and scarcely an addition was made to sacred literature, yet all the little learning of the world was theirs. The Bible survived, and the works of the Great Fathers of the earlier ages were cherished, studied and admired. Of such a tree it may well be said, though cut down and almost destroyed, yet through the smell of water it will sprout and bud as, thank God, this tree of life did.
The Fourth Period, from 900 to 1200, when the light of the Reformation began to dawn. Already Mohammedanism, that fierce, fanatical and cruel power, had made fearful inroads upon those regions which first received the Gospel. We can hardly account for it, otherwise than by supposing that those races had already become feeble and effeminate, and that the spirit of the martyrs in the Church had nearly died out. These calamities in the East, and especially the conquest of Jerusalem, at length aroused, not the courage only and the religious zeal, but also [25/26] the frenzy of the members of the Latin Church from one end of Europe to the other, and one Crusade after another rushed forth to recover from the Infidel the tomb of our Lord, only to perish by the way, or to be dashed to pieces against the foe.
Under the good providence of Him whose divine prerogative it is to bring light out of darkness, order out of confusion, and good out of evil, the dreadful calamities of this period began, towards its close, not only to be repaired, but, upon the return of the surviving Crusaders, new elements were infused into the body politic, and a new influence, and better directed, guided the not at all impaired energies of the Church. Egypt gave much of her civilization to Judea, and the despised Saracens no small share of their taste and refinement to the more barbarous Nations of the North. Teutons especially were captivated and carried away with the music, the processions, canopies and banners, which gave so much Asiatic splendor to Royalty. The climate of Syria and Palestine allowed of these in the open air. Normans, Flemish, English returned to their cold, dark climate, inflamed with a passion for these shows, and if the magnificent cathedrals, which, through these regions, everywhere sprung up at this period, were not constructed expressly to gratify this taste, they certainly were admirably fit for that purpose; no arrangements could more fully gratify a taste for scenic and processional worship.
They are also monuments of a profound and elevated religious sentiment, which, in England, survived a taste for scenic and processional worship, and there, as nowhere else, they continue to foster learning, music and piety of a sober, refined and gentle type, whose streams now, more than ever, refresh the heritage of the Lord. They are fortresses and outposts, from which excursion parties are continually sent forth to the ends of the earth.
In this picture the Universities are of course included. They and their learned inmates were immensely benefited by that [26/27] revival of learning which followed the Crusades, if not one of their natural results. The minds of the greatest men who took part in them were vastly expanded by travel, the learned amongst them by a larger acquaintance with Greek literature, and by access to that vast store of Arabic literature which was then first opened to them.
Thus also was revealed the comparative ignorance of the monks and the narrowness and poverty of their scanty literature. And so the monasteries, which for ages had been the store-house of all the books which had escaped the devastations of war, and of all the little taste for letters which survived, fell into contempt.
To these there gradually succeeded a long line of really learned men and distinguished orators.
The Fifth Period, 300 years, from 1200 to the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century.
Not only did the internal affairs of the Church tend this way, but the whole order of Providence, the convulsions of Empires, the discoveries of commerce and science and the inventions of genius, all tended to the breaking down of old barriers, the expansion of the intellect and freedom of thought. The use of the compass in adventurous sea voyages, the discovery of America, and the invention of printing, were events, the product of the times, and the means and instruments of more general enlightenment.
About the middle of this period appeared one of England's greatest sons, Wicliffe, the forerunner of the Reformation, who, together with the martyr Tyndal, two centuries later, appear more nearly than any others to have struck the key-note of a true and thorough Reformation; to give to every country the Bible in the language understood by the people. Toward its close, an unheeded cry arose from Huss and Jerome of Prague, with the vain hope of bringing about a reform of some of the most grievous errors of the Church, and some of its worst abuses, by [27/28] the aid of its highest authorities. They paid the penalty of their rash attempt by their heroic and triumphant deaths. But once more, signal proof was soon given that "the blood of Martyrs is the seed of the Church." Truth and free thought cannot be crushed out by violence. Not quite yet was the way prepared for its wide spread by the productions of the press, and the impassioned voice of Gospel preachers in public places. But perhaps powerfully, and more effectually, it was silently working like leaven amongst the masses; and, in the hearts of God's chosen servants, preparing the way for those great events which convulsed England and large portions of Europe to their very centers.
The Sixth Period, from the year 1500 to the opening of the present century.
Thus far, until towards the close of the last period, we have recorded the almost hopeless struggles of a good cause in an evil world; its alternate defeats and victories; but still its slow and sure advance. From the time of Wicliffe the indications of more rapid progress were manifest all over Europe. Our brief notice confines us to what occurred in Germany and England. Notice will first be taken of events which hastened and extended a powerful reaction from the old decayed state of things in Church and State:—and then of the means by which direct advantage was taken of this reaction.
It was, probably, the greediness and low vices of the mendicant Friars; their harping perpetually on the efficacy of indulgence, the value of relics, and the marvelous stories they had to tell in their pulpits of the virtues of dead saints, their power to work miracles, even after they were dead, which most shocked the honest common-sense of every branch of the Teutonic Race. They asked for facts, they had had enough of fables. They asked for the Word of God instead of the visions of enthusiasts.
Along with these causes, in England there were others of an [28/29] economic and political complexion. The drafts upon the resources of the country by means of their vast landed possessions, first-fruits of ecclesiastical benefices, fees and Peter-pence were enormous. This enraged the King, and provoked the Nobility, and interfered with the plans of statesmen. The pride of the whole country was stung to the quick that so few Englishmen were exalted to high places in the Church. The revenues of great livings went to furnish luxuries to proud and assuming Italians, to whom the habit of domineering had become familiar from having had to do at home with a race far different from sturdy Englishmen.
In the midst of all this, it pleased God to raise up instruments, admirably fitted to apply the remedies direct—the sturdy and fearless Luther, the amiable and scholarly Melancthon, the acute and dogmatic Calvin, and the timid but learned Erasmus. In England, with far greater advantage, the same instruments were in the hands of Bishops, Cranmer, the wise and politic; Ridley, the refined and fearless, and Old Latimer, the bold and defiant, naturally the favorite of the common people. And these instruments were the Word of God read in the public assemblies and studied at the firesides of all who could read; a fearless and independent press, limited, but most powerful in its influence. In the pulpit, the Gospel preached with a simplicity and power lost to a sad extent since primitive times.
Amongst the learned and the lovers of music, alike in Germany and England, translations into Latin prose of the sublime and exquisite Poems of King David had, since the time of Gregory the Great, been chanted in the Churches in grave majestic measures. Of later years, original metrical poems on sacred subjects had found a few admirers. But the love of David's Psalms, translated into the Mother tongue, soon led to metrical translations, and this to like translations of metrical Latin hymns; in a word, original sacred Hymns, true to Holy Scripture, but yet suited to the times, to the convictions and the [29/30] emotions of the people, became one of the most powerful instruments in inspiring the enthusiasm of the common people in the new cause. They filled the memories of the humblest peasant, and resounded in the cabins of the most illiterate.
Much of this period was marked by grave complications and ruinous wars amongst all the nations of Europe, most of them growing out of the conflict of religious convictions, giving rise to the incongruous title of the Wars of Religion. The results, in several instances, were extremely detrimental to the interests of that cause whose progress we are tracing. The dissensions amongst the Protestants of Germany leading to the reverses and desolations of the Thirty Years' War; the machinations of the Jesuits, the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day; the perversion of Henry IV, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, were extremely disastrous. In England, the Civil Wars, the interregnum and restoration; and the corruption of morals and decay of piety after the Restoration, were all extremely detrimental to that movement which would have restored the holiness and zeal of primitive times.
But after all, taking everything into account, in no three centuries, taken collectively, did pure and undefiled Religion make such decided progress. The greatest political and military combinations, terminated very greatly in favor of true Religion. The Independence of Holland, Sweden and Denmark, the destruction of the Spanish Armada, the predominance of England amongst the nations of the earth, and the prominence of Prussia among the different powers of Germany, gave promise of all which has since taken place.
During the two last centuries of this period, the Puritan element, apart from its political aspect, began to mould the Christian civilization of the United States; and the revival of Religion in England, under the lead of Wesley and Whitefield, soon diffused a more sober but more powerful religious influence through the whole realm. This evening twilight of the [30/31] sixth period prepared the way for a bright dawn on the morning of
The Seventh Period, 300 years from 1800 to the dawn of the Seventh Day, to which the name has been given of the Millennium. Several years ago, Erskine pointed out, in that remarkable work, of his, New Model of Missions, that three distinct methods, suited to different periods, had been employed by Divine Providence to promote the spread of the Gospel: (1.) The method direct, the heralding of its facts, the holy lives and the heroic deaths of its martyrs, and for a time, and on great occasions, the attestation of miracles. (2.) The method indirect, when heathen hordes were led to accept the Religion and, in part, the civilization of the nations they had conquered. (3.) And in these latter days the more successful and expanding method of commerce and colonization in the hands of the most vigorous race, carrying with them knowledge, good laws and a form of Christianity the nearest approach to the scriptural and primitive known amongst men for 1500 years.
This Commerce commenced long ago from a small island, with a hardy race, the most maritime of all the nations. Under Raleigh at the south, and the Puritans at the north, it proposed Christian Colonies along with an adventurous Commerce. In India, Canada and South Africa and some of the Great Islands of the Pacific, first Commerce, then War, then Colonization and, along with the last, Christianity.
A little more than two hundred years ago, the Latin race, and the form of Christianity to which they were so devoted, seemed likely to cover most of the Continent of Europe and almost literally the whole of the Western World. Now, even the secular papers, not only of England and America, but also of Germany and France, are full of speculations how few years it will take before the English Language will be more generally spoken than any other; English institutions and laws more [31/32] generally prevail; and, of course, those forms of Christianity so dear to every English, Colonial and American heart.
But to look at another aspect of this question. The most marked peculiarity of the opening of the Nineteenth Century, as affecting the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, is, the formation of Societies whose purpose is the same as that of the venerable Society which bears this name;—The British and Foreign, and the American Bible Societies, the Church Missionary Society, the London Foreign Missionary Society and similar Institutions in the hands of all the more numerous and powerful Denominations; Sunday School and Tract Societies without number; all tending to the fulfillment of the prophecy, at "the time of the end, many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." (Dan. xii, 4.)
All modern inventions and improvements are working together towards the same end. Free Governments; the education of all the people; better food and clothing and better dwellings; the application of the arts and sciences to improve the condition and increase the comfort of all classes; and the consequent increase of the longevity of those races who enjoy the most of these advantages; all contribute to the cultivation of the higher sentiments and purer affections of our nature. These are the fruits of Christianity, and at the same time its prolific seed; at once cause and effect; the best results of true religion, uniformly contributing to better and better.
The progress of the Gospel depends upon its power; and its power consists in its fitness to mould character, and guide one's life. And perhaps the best measure of the most advanced Christianity is the number of pure, gentle, refined and loving Christian homes. Converted savages cannot at once attain to these; and it may well be doubted whether, amongst the immediate followers of the Apostles, gathered chiefly from amongst the poorer sort, under the conditions of oriental life, many such homes could anywhere be found. Personal piety assumed its [32/33] separate, highest, most heroic type. But not yet would such homes exist as now abound in Sweden, Germany, England and America. And that which heralded the dawn of the Millennium will be the multiplication of such households, until they shall far outnumber all others.
Millennium. Saturday Evening, closing with the year 2100, will, it is hoped, be followed by the Lord's Day of this Dispensation.
History is the light by which we try to read the Philosophy of the Divine Purposes during the ages past: Prophecy is almost the only light by which we can interpret coming events. Here, however, we are met with the difficulty, that our Religion being a Religion of Facts, the only safe use of Prophecy is to confirm our faith after the events predicted have transpired. It is wise and well that the future is so entirely hidden from mortal view. It was no part of the design of Prophecy to made us Prophets. Hence, in the inspired records, the language of Prophecy so abounds in highly-colored oriental figures of speech, that almost any imaginative theory may be built up upon them, but no clear and well-defined image is impressed upon the mind. In trying to form some definite conception of the approaching Millennium, a different method will here be adopted, better suited to the whole scope of the preceding remarks.
Thus far we have been tracing the successful progress of the Plan of Redemption of a race of beings more inclined to evil than to good. It was a task attended with almost insurmountable difficulties. There were imperfections on all sides. An immortal soul of finite capacities and evil propensities, dwelling in a body inflamed by evil appetites and passions, liable to accident, sickness, and death; in the midst of associates as imperfect and evil as itself; such a being sent forth to increase and multiply, in a world, in soil, climate and production as imperfect as its possessors.
 Under these circumstances, the development of a healthy, moral character in the race was the design of the Plan of Redemption. But without freedom of choice between good and evil there can be no moral character. Fated to do good is no more commendable than fated to do evil.
A State of Discipline, must, therefore, of necessity, run through all the stages of the Plan of Redemption until its consummation. Visible covenant relations with the Author of these beneficent designs must run into and continue through the whole period of the millennium. The religious education of the young; reading and preaching the word of God; the administration of the Holy Sacraments; family, social and public worship; and the use of all the other means of grace, will be needed then as now; only, their good fruits will much more abound. The departments of Education and Government must still exist in all their branches excepting those of war and the more grave criminal offenses. As even then there will be no "royal road to mathematics;" and as the discoveries of science and the inventions of genius will continually be advancing, the life of man will be one long school-time, but without its hard discipline and cruel confinement. So all the employments of life in business, commerce, manufactures and agriculture must be going on in city, town and country. But all without the rough collision of selfish interests and passions. Social and domestic life brought to the highest point of perfection as to refinement, gentleness and purity, almost all will be realized that imagination has depicted of earthly happiness. Only sickness and death will remain with their attendant pain and grief and mourning. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death;" and even that enemy, by the grace of Christ and the sure hope of a glorious Resurrection, has been deprived "of its sting." (I Cor. xv, 26, 55.)
At this point nothing is more fitting than a poetic description of the reign of the Prince of Peace; and what Poet can rival [34/35] the strains of the Evangelical Prophet, the inspired Isaiah? "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." In his day "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and young lion and fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp; and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah xi, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.) And in another place, choosing another illustration, "He shall judge many nations, and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah ii, 4.)
Thus through this long panorama we have been tracing the outlines of a wonderful History—the History of Revealed Religion. No other extends so far back, even to the creation of our First Parents, and the record of its earliest promise: "The seed of the woman shall bruise the Serpent's head." Further than that, its central, its most important event, the Incarnation of the Son of God and His death for our redemption entered into the councils of heaven before time was. So one of the Chief Apostles of Christ assures us: "Who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times." (I Pet. i, 20.) "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev. xiii, 8.) The History of Revealed [35/36] Religion is just as tangible a subject of study as that of the Theodosian Code, or the British Constitution. Indeed, it is far more so, for it is more intimately and thoroughly interwoven with the National History of the Jews, and for a vastly longer time than either of the subjects just named. Indeed, for two thousand years, from Abraham to Christ, the History of the Jews was the History of the only people in covenant with God, and from the time of Moses, the appointed keepers of the Records of His Revelation. And what renders this History the most interesting and important of all histories, is this, that the Jews are so peculiar a people, that their remaining to this day, after all their calamities, dispersions and persecution, a Nation nearly as numerous as ever, a Nation without a Country, is nothing less than a standing miracle—actual, visible, and unlike any other miracle, wholly moral. No law of Nature suspended. No striking sign given. No emotional audience or excitable crowd present. It is a silent appeal to all reading and reflecting minds to take notice of this miracle; for it proves the truth of the one leading fact of Revealed Religion, that Jesus is the Christ, the very fact which, in their stubbornness, they still disbelieve and deny. "His blood be upon us and upon our children." Awful imprecation! The curse has fallen upon them, and will to the uttermost, until the fullness of the Gentiles be gathered in. When, let us hope that the conversion of the Jews will usher in the Millennium, and the unbelief of the skeptic and the sneer of the scoffer be silenced forever.
As a department of Science, the History of the Hebrew race is as worthy of careful study as that of any other nation, whether of ancient or modern times. Choose, if you please, in ancient times that of Rome; in modern, that of England. In either case the authentic undoubted facts in the history of either nation—and especially with regard to the first eight hundred years—gathered from all sources, in value cannot be compared with what is contained in the first twelve books of the Sacred [36/37] Scriptures of the Jews in connection with their early history. Admitted that it would require the labor of many years of a studious life to master these materials, yet only then would a learned and studious man be in a condition to enter upon the study of another branch of this great subject:—the Philosophy of these Histories. By this we mean the influence over these facts of a vast number of peculiar circumstances. To begin with, the physical, mental and moral peculiarities of each race; the location and climate of their more fixed abode, whether interior or maritime, whether agricultural or mountainous, whether a cold, a temperate or a hot region, &c. Next we come to their occupations, whether that of hunters, shepherds, farmers or mariners. Then of their migration, settlements or dispersions, and of their wars, whether fortunate or disastrous; of the Government, whether free or oppressive. Then the influence upon their destiny of the great men who ruled over them, led their armies, guided their policy, or thundered in their senates. And finally, the effect wrought upon them, or wrought by them, by their learning, their philosophy, their poetry, their superstitions and their religious rites and ceremonies. Who but the greatest and wisest of men, after a long life spent in these studies, would be competent to express very decided opinions? And it is worthy of remark that these are they who are uniformly least disposed to do so.
There are several volumes, of great ability and real value, upon the Philosophy of the History of several Peoples. One upon the History of the Jews, until the conquest of Titus and their final dispersion, was hardly needed, for their Inspired History, Prophecies and Poetry, recorded in their Holy Bible, contains the only Philosophy of the kind penned by the hand of God. It is summed up in this, that all the conditions above enumerated, combined to fit them, as no other Nation was fitted, to be recipients, custodians, and conveyancers of the Records of Divine Revelation. So far they helped to work out the Plan of [37/38] the Redemption of a lost race, and even yet that part is not fully accomplished.
If this be so, how exceedingly unbecoming it must be for a proficient in one department, the history of Rome, for instance, to call in question the conclusions at which an equally distinguished proficient in the study of English History had arrived. What right has either to denounce as false, and ridicule as fallacious, the faith of one who has given to the sacred records of Jews and Christians a much more vigorous scrutiny than either of them in his chosen department?
To bring out this idea more fully and clearly, we will extend the mode of illustration to Sciences which are hardly at all moral or emotional, and on that account less liable to be misleading; to two Physical Sciences, Astronomy and Geology, both more exclusively in the domain of fact. How preposterous to conceive of Darwin or Draper's undertaking to call in question the results of the investigations of Herschell, Adams, Pierce or Gould? The facts of these two Physical Sciences, have never given occasion, in either department, to the production of works on the Philosophy of Geography, similar to those on the Doctrines of Theology and the Philosophy of History.
And yet there is a very similar debatable ground alongside of the facts of Astronomy and Geology, the vast prolific fields of Theory and Conjecture. For Astronomy, Theory has more than once been of great value, provoking to laborious investigation and leading to great discoveries. Mere conjecture has, proportionably, fallen into disrepute. The present writer is not competent to determine whether he rightly judges that the reverse of this has happened in the department of Geology. It is enough for his present purpose to assume that it is more a Conjectural than an Inductive Science. His object is to give prominence to the idea that only one expert would be capable of making a satisfactory comparison, and that would be the man who had spent a lifetime in equally enthusiastic researches in [38/39] both departments. No such man ever has existed, or ever can exist.
If the design of this Article has been accomplished, or even approached its accomplishment, its readers have been convinced that the History of the Jews and the Philosophy of that History stand prominently forth, before those of any other people either of Ancient or Modern Times, as solitary and peculiar, even when divested of its moral and religious aspects. Embracing these, all other knowledge seems, in comparison, scarcely worthy of the attention of accountable and immortal beings. To know their God, "the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent is life eternal." (John xvii, 3.) Of what other knowledge can as much be said? Not that it requires the laborious study of a life to acquire it. It only requires the careful reading of the Bible in a teachable, child-like and prayerful spirit in order to be made wise unto salvation. ["And what shall we say of the imagination? Where can you find a wider field for its exercise than that opened by the discoveries of modern science? And as the mind wanders over the vast expanse, crossing boundless spaces, dwelling in illimitable time, witnessing the displays of immeasurable power, and studying the adaptations of Omniscient skill, it lives in a realm of beauty, of wonder, and of awe, such as no artist has ever attained to in word, in sound, in color, or in form. And if such a life does not lead man to feel his own dependence, to yearn towards the Infinite Father, and to rest on the bosom of Infinite Love, it is simply because it is not the noble in intellect, not the great in talent, not the profound in knowledge, not the rich in experience, not the lofty in aspiration, not the gifted in imagery, but solely the pure in heart, who see God."—Prof. Cook, Harvard University.] The investigations of such truly great men in the several lines of thought and study, as Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Milton and Bishop Butler, no doubt went somewhat further than this; yet who can doubt the reasonableness of their belief? Indeed, it is difficult to conceive how any educated mind possessed of ordinary acuteness and candor, could subject the evidence of the genuineness [39/40] and authenticity of the Five Books of Moses and the Four Gospels, to the same scrutiny as he would the most ancient manuscripts of Homer or of Cicero, without freely admitting their highest claims.
Neglecting such studies, coming to hasty conclusions, and then denouncing truth to be error, is as censurable, as if the most accomplished Geologist, without ever having read a treatise upon Astronomy, should denounce the Principia of Newton to be a forgery, and its demonstrations wholly fallacious.
The fact is, all these departments stand separate and apart. Mathematics and Astronomy are to be approached by the demonstrative method. Geology and Chemistry by the method of close observation. History by the documentary method. Religion and Morality by the method suited to this class of Studies; but all rigidly subject, as far as possible, to the Inductive Method.
Profound research in either is highly honorable, and may be profitable. Some acquaintance with all is desirable, but proficiency in all is quite impossible.
It has been the object of this Article to vindicate the claims of Revealed Religion; and the inestimable value of that Plan of Salvation which is all a dream if there be no personal God, no rule of right, no future life, no state of retribution after death.