condition, and enables us to avail ourselves to the utmost of the various material resources it affords,—but that which tends to our moral improvement, and promotes the growth of the dispositions and affections which render earth the most like to heaven, and the fittest preparation for it. When we look back upon the past history of mankind,—when we survey the steps of that gradual progress by which we have been enabled to advance to our present state, and consider how much of this progress we owe to the zealous labours of many distinguished men, who have actively exerted themselves to bring about the reform of corruptions and abuses in the civil or religious condition of their brethren,-to promote the cause of education or the diffusion of useful knowledge,-and who have persevered in these, and similar excellent and honourable undertakings, through evil report and good report, with the sacrifice of much that ordinary men chiefly value, to their own personal loss and even danger,-all that we at present enjoy seems but the harvest of their toils. In addition to the share of this rich harvest which we personally enjoy, it is surely reasonable to expect that we should receive a moral benefit of yet greater value, in the impressions which such things are calculated to produce on our own hearts, by exciting our warm affections towards our friends, by stimulating our solicitude in like manner to minister to their welfare, and to promote their most important interests to the best of our ability, gradually enlarging, from time to time, the sphere of our affections, as our views of the world and of human life become more comprehensive, and our means of serving our brethren are proportionally extended :—thus leading us, by degrees, practically to perceive and acknowledge that no man liveth to himself.

Will it be said, that these are reflections fit for such only as occupy high and distinguished stations ?-who are enabled to work on a more extensive scale and a more public stage, so as to promote the welfare of large classes and of successive generations, and thus to create for themselves a name which is likely to be held in lasting remembrance ?-No doubt such eminent benefactors to their species as have a more elevated station allotted to them, and are endowed with such talents as enable them to fulfil the important duties of these stations with credit and usefulness, have a great and serious responsibility imposed on them; and it seems but reasonable that they should reap a proportionate reward in the honour and distinguished fame which their labours procure for them. Though indeed such men, in proportion as they are really competent to the eminent posts they occupy, will generally be found superior to the influence of these meaner motives; and seeking for their appropriate recompense,- not in the praise of men, even of wise and good men, but in the consciousness of doing right,--of labouring, through the Divine blessing, not without success, in the service of their brethren,-and, chiefly, in the approbation and acceptance of Him whose creatures and servants they are, and who appointed them their respective stations in this world.

But we should be in the wrong, to suppose that such men as these alone are expected to labour, in order that others may enter into their labours. In fact, it becomes us to consider, that as all our powers, whatever may be their extent, however wide or prominent the field of their exercise, are alike the gift of the One Supreme, so the differences which here exist, and which strike us so forcibly, between the respective conditions and opportunities of different individuals, are as nothing in the eyes of Him who regards all things in their just and true proportions, and who sees the end from the beginning. Remembering that this is the earliest stage of our existence, deriving its main importance, whatever condition we may occupy here, from its tendency to prepare us for that which is to succeed, it ought to be considered that the powers which are here exercised, and the affections which are here cultivated, and the just and enlarged views which may here be formed of the plans of the Divine government, and the mutual relations we bear as the creatures and children of God, whose present duty it is to assist and serve each other, are all destined to come into exercise, and to receive a still more full and complete development than any of which they are capable here, in another and a better state.

This reflection, combined with the consideration, that all our talents and opportunities, be they great or small in the estimation of human judges, derive their main importance and value from the circumstance of their being the gift of Him by whom kings reign and princes decree justice, will prompt even those who are externally the most humble and obscure, to reverence themselves. Not that they will be puffed up with an extravagant notion of their personal importance; but that they will regard whatever they have received as possessing a peculiar dignity and excellence, derived from the hand which bestowed it. Freely we have received, through the wise disposals of a gracious Providence, the fruits of the toil and ingenuity and perseverance, and not only so but, of the generous and active benevolence, of those who have gone before us,-freely let us give,-freely spend and be spent, -and as we have been reapers from the past, be also sowers for the future, that those who come after us may enter into our labours, and continue, in their turn, the harvests and seed times of Providence. W. T.




Two years and a half ago we introduced to the notice of our readers, and we believe to the first acquaintance of many of them, the remarkable man whose name stands at the head of this article, and whose incipient career as an independent but earnest fellow-labourer with the liberal theologians of this country, we even then contemplated with the liveliest interest.* Since that time Mr. Barker has not been idle, as is shown by the bundle of forty tracts and upwards which lie before us as we write, all of them printed, and the greater part composed, by himself, and forming, after all, but a selection from the still larger variety of his addresses to the public. We watch Mr. Barker's career with interest-we watched it for a time with anxiety. So free and fearless a mind as his was not likely to keep itself within any bounds but those which truth appeared to him to dictate; and as he had already undergone such a total revolution of sentiment on so many subjects, making up his mind with such apparent rapidity and decision on each as it presented itself to him, we trembled lest the impetuosity of his course should leave sound judgment fatally in the rear. It would be implying more agreement with Mr. Barker than we feel, if we were to say that the danger appears to us to have been escaped, and that our anxiety has entirely ceased. We know the history of free and independent minds too well to count with confidence on the permanence of any existing agreement. A man who has thrown off shackle after shackle, who has resisted the most overwhelming of spiritual despotisms, who has cleared at a bound the gulf which separates the world from the few, and joined the latter, is not likely to be much affected by any state of opinion among those to whom he has united himself. If he has braved the frowns of a conference he will not be touched in the slightest degree by any thing of what Bentham would call “body-spirit,” or esprit de corps. If he has thrown off orthodoxy, he will not put on heresy. If councils and canons never made him pause, he will not reflect twice on the results of a century's free and yet careful inquiry among liberal theologians. He will not, on finding a difference subsisting between himself and them, be led on that account to doubt the accuracy of his judgment or the correctness of his induction. He is the centre of his own system. No spiritual neighbour's doubts or differences will induce him to pause. He joined his new friends because they agreed with him, not because he agreed with them. Thus is he a free man still, of a new and, perhaps, an unfinished growth. Unitarians, calculating on the permanence of a perhaps temporary agreement, are thus sometimes disappointed. Your comet's course runs parallel with your's at this moment; but how long that parallelism may continue, neither you, perhaps, nor the comet knows. As it dashed suddenly into your course, it may dash as suddenly out of it. Unitarians, in welcoming a new labourer among them, invite to no second slavery. It was by the exercise of his freedom that the new labourer came amongst them, and it is only in the exercise of it that he will remain. He has not the respectful restraints, the long poisings and fluctuations of opinion, the returns of the pendulum of faith to the old point, the waitings for increased light and evidence, and for the remote and slow decision which, shadowed forth in the history of his own mind, or in that of his associates, mark the solid resulting views of your thorough-bred English Presbyterian. With the convert, matters are very different; all is doublequick time with him. If he had been as cautious as you, he never would have been out of the enemy's camp at all: and accordingly, after welcoming him with joy into your little army, and making the very most of him, you are amazed to find him, some fine morning, beating an advance or a retreat, as the case may be, while you yourself only meditate remaining quietly in quarters. The Unitarians are beginning to learn what most denominations have learned already, that the convert, as he is called, especially if he be a man of mark, will be the last person in the world to march to a denominational trumpet, and in his onslaught on the errors and superstitions of the world around him, ten chances to one if he confine himself to the line of battle. Like the volunteers in the American army, when he shoots, he shoots on his own account.


* See Christian Teacher, N. S., No. XVI., April 1842, Art. V., on the Origin of the New Sect in this Country, called “ Christians.”

We are far from wishing our readers to apply these remarks in their full force to Mr. Barker : but a calm estimate of the rights of a free mind and of customary denominational expectations, is always useful in judging of the nature and value of such an acquisition as he is to the ranks of Christian truth. At present Mr. Barker's views on the theological doctrines of the Scriptures seem exactly to accord with those usually held by Unitarians, and though we were at one time disposed to await some ulterior modifications of opinion, and were far from sure what would be the final position of Christianity as a system of Divine Truth in his appreciation, we now think that his moral estimate of its worth and excellence, as of its supreme importance, is so high, so rooted and sincere, that the new and freer principles of criticism which are evidently by degrees unfolding themselves to his view will leave that estimate untouched, and will quietly lodge themselves in his mind, without that convulsion to the higher and permanent faith which so often unfortunately accompanies their too rapid and summary admission. We look, then, on Mr. Barker's theological position as more fixed than we regarded it a short time since. We believe that his faith in the spiritual power and truth of Christianity will stand the shock of the freer canons which he is beginning to discover must be applied to the reception and interpretation of the letter. We are only doubtful whether Mr. Barker's ardent mind will allow him at all times to place his new impressions in their own relative position, and assign to them only their due and just importance. We fear his frank and manly disposition may sometimes lead him to battle for what, in his view, is sound and true, with an energy more proportioned to the opposition which it will meet with than to its own absolute importance, and thus that the capital truths of a pure theology, the advocacy of which is met and understood by the plain sense and Scriptural knowledge of the people, will be merged under questions of less practical importance, and for the right decision of which more subtlety of argument and a greater extent of reading and reflection are required.

As Mr. Barker's Tracts bear neither numbers nor dates we have no clue whereby to arrange them in a progressive series, which would, if we could effect it, greatly aid us in forming a judgment of the direction and progress of his inquiries. But as illustrative of the remarks which we have just made, we will take two Tracts, one on the Inspiration of the Scriptures, and the other on Inspiration, Infallibility, &c., and we judge from internal evidence that the first-named was first published. In this Tract he says

“I have not the slightest doubt of the inspiration of any of those • Holy Scriptures' of which the Apostle Paul speaks in 2 Tim. iii. 1517. I believe that those Scriptures included the Books of Moses, the Psalms, the Prophets, and some other books as well. I believe the Song of Solomon was not included in the Scriptures referred to by Paul. The following are some of my reasons for thus believing: 1. The Scriptures which the Apostle calls the Holy Scriptures, were able to make men wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, and were,—all of them,--profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.' This is not the case with Solomon's Song.

« ForrigeFortsett »