[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR:?
SIR,—It would occupy much more space than you can afford me, and it would take more time than I can well spare, were I to give an exhaustive answer to Mr. Malcolm Maccoll's letter in your last issue. I must, accordingly, limit myself to a few observations on certain portions of it. And first of all, I would specially note the very dreary Pelagianism which forms the warp of all Mr. Maccoll's assertions. According to Mr. Maccoll, laissez- faire is the great characteristic of the divine policy, and every man is, in his regard, a supreme little Deity, or Godlet, who has entirely in his own inviolate keeping the dis- position of his final destiny. And if proof of these remarkable conceptions is wanted, we are referred to the heathen Aristotle, who formulated the conclusion that through force of evil habit a man may render himself hopelessly " incorrigible." Aristotle is not the only " heathen " who has held this " incorrigible" notion. According to a great Christian authority, " the heathens," generally, in his day, had become very Aristotelian in their sentiments. At least, the Ephesian " heathens " had quite settled down into the mood of Aristotle. They had been wholly without hope, "dead in trespasses and sins " to any aspiration or dream of the possibility of higher life for them- selves, or any of their contemporaries. I cannot gather, however, that St. Paul at all approved of this Aristotelian state of mind. On the contrary, he pronounced it to be wholly atheistic, and to judge from the letter to the Ephesians, he had been the means of delivering the readers of it from their "incorrigible " convic- tion, or rather persuasion, with all its defiling and deadly conse- quences. The wrathful children whom Aristotle would have pronounced " incorrigible " had been quickened out of the death of sensual passion into a life of sweetness and light, and for those who are prepared to accept the teaching of St. Paul, in preference to that of Aristotle, it may be some consolation-to learn from the Apostle that this resurgence of the apparently " incorrigible " from the graves of idolatry and Moral degradation was no excep-
Iional phenomenon, but was the outcome of a sovereign law. Far from allowing the despairing " incorrigible " conclusion, St. Paul proclaims good news to all those who, instead 'of merely seeking permanent good things, or "a whole skin," for themselves, popularly termed "salvation," would rather be " accursed " than be the favourites of an Almighty partiality which pets
the few and leaved the majority out in the cold. To -St. Paul sin was a mighty force. He calls it even " a law."
He felt its power in himself. He saw the signs of its destructive agency all around him, but instead of handing over stay one member of the human family as a hopeless and " incor- Tigible " victim to this " reigning" tendency, he testified of a law mightier still in its power and comprehensiveness. If sin abounded, -grace abounded still more. No doubt he too had once-been imprisoned, so far at least as the majority of his contemporary kinsmen were concerned, within the " incorrigible " prison walls. But he was not happy in his bastille. On the contrary, he informs es that while shut up within it, he had " continual sorrow of heart." By prayer, and wrestling thought, however, he hewed out for him- self a way of escape from the "dismal science" of the Pharisee and Aristotle. Many a day and night " he was in the deep," but at last the light of a great day of the Lord dawned upon his vision, and be saw that "God had concluded all his brethren in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all." He broke out into childlike raptures of praise in presence of the beatific vision. Israel, more- -over, was to him only typical of the entire human family. From 'God, through God, to God, developed itself the great story of Isumanity ; and such being the origin and final home of all, he -could call on the " heathen " Romans, to whom he wrote, to gird 'themselves for all the activities and denials of Christian life, with -the assured trust that in the end " the mercies of God" would educe out of all the tragedies of human existence a conclusive bliss for all, which would far surpass their dearest dream of good for the world. And elsewhere he writes, " As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all b3 made alive." But " No," says the "heathen Aristotle," and Aristotle is an honourable man com- pared with this poor Hebrew tentmaker. For myself, I prefer the tentmaker. He has made all things new to me. He has given me hope for myself, for all, because he has announced the great principle that the Infinite Charity has taken in hand the " incor- rigible" world, and is "reconciling it with Himself." But if I am to believe Mr. Maccoll and the "heathen Aristotle," the reconciling .process may prove a vast failure ; there is no reign of grace ; -" incorrigibility " may remain master of the situation, and count- ism human souls survive for ever "invincible" Maccoll's word) by Him who yet has declared that "if He were lifted up He would draw all men unto Him." I ask whether of the two statements is the more like a Gospel, that of Aristotle, or that of Christ ?
But in the second place, I must take exception to Mr. Maccoll's letter because, whereas the Cursing Catechism, which curses pro- bably Athanasius himself, makes salvation depend upon "thinking," 'or mere opinion, Mr. Maccoll maintains that it only addresses itself to the moral sentiment, or "rightness of will," for he says, "It opens with a Quicunque vult,' and it ends with a declaration of God's final judgment upon those that have done good and those that have done evil, respectively." Now, if this statement of Mr. Maccoll's were 'verifiable, it would supply us with a quite novel reason for regard. ing the creed of which he is the apologist as the very " super- fluity of naughtiness." For if the ultimate issues of our present discipline depend only or mainly on rightness or wrongness of will, and on consequent good or evil doing, where on earth is the place or the reason for the tremendous assertion that, " Whosoever will be saved, above all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholick Faith, which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, he without doubt sha31 perish everlastingly ;" or for this kindred one, " He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity "? 'If we accept Mr. Maccoll's gloss, the Athanasian symbol, while allow- ing the heathen their blessed privilege of not being born Christian, would Also permit us to cherish the hope that, finally, so " incorrigible" a Unitarian as Mr. James Martineau might fare as well as the dlarlot Rahab, for, in spite of her lie, which it seems " was a mis- 'take arising from imperfect knowledge " (sic !) " the direction of 'her will was right." But we cannot accept it. This cursing symbol—the relic or war-song of a barbarous age—stands up inexorably for a conventional set of dogmas—agreed upon by a company of "fallible" men, but where or when assembled nobody knows. It places involuntary opinion in the
same category with voluntary wrong doing. It brackets Wil- liam Sykes and William Ellery Channing in the same class list. It damns the man whose faith in God's mercy forbids him to believe in everlasting damnation, and it puts the denial of the double procession in the same category with the wholesale murders of Burke and Hare. And this is the moral law which, according to Mr. Maccoll, an infallible Church is at liberty to publish ! Having received a commandment to bless and curse not, this savage document, which assumes—on the part of all who use it—the infallible right to curse, is never said or sung in my church.