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THIRD SERIES, NO. XIII.—WHOLE NUMBER, XLIX:
ECCLESIASTICAL DISCOVERIES OF THE PURITANS. By REV. GEO. B. CHEEVER, D. D., New York.
1. A History of the Work of Redemption, including a Church History in a method entirely new. By JONATHAN EDWARDS, Pastor of a Church in Northampton.
2. Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, with elucidations. By THOMAS CARLYLE. New York. Wiley & Putnam.
3. The Protector: A Vindication. By J. H. MERLE D'AUBIGNE. New York. Robert Carter.
4. Neal's History of the Puritans. Edited by JOHN O. CHOULES, A. M. New York. Harper & Brothers.
MEN seeking God earnestly for themselves, always find him for others. This is the case both with individuals and nations. This is one reason why our blessed Lord, when his disciples returned from their novel and difficult mission with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through thy name, simply and solemnly answered, after assuring them that Satan's power was indeed broken, Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the devils are subject to you, but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. Take heed to your own holiness and salvation, for thus only can you conquer Satan, by conquering yourselves. One of our elder poets has said that
66 Only he who knows Himself, knows more."
It may be added, that only he who saves himself, saves more. God never saves one alone, but others; and the fountain of power is through individual experience, individual baptism of the soul in fire. A man like Henry Martyn, Brainard, Edwards, Payson, THIRD SERIES, VOL. IV. No. 1.
setting out in such fire after God, builds, with the flame of his own spirit, a chariot of glory, that takes multitudes to heaven. Just so, a nation, seeking God truly for itself, discovers principles and lays foundations, for the salvation of a world. Almost the whole aim of the Puritans was to find God. In this search, passing almost into the Theocracy of the Hebrews of old, by the consuming energy of the impulse with which they started, they discovered principles, or rather wrought them out into noticeable and practicable form, by reason of the ignorance or perversion of which, the whole world, and even the Christian world, had lain in bondage. Starting for salvation themselves, they worked out liberty for others. It was only by degrees that they began themselves to see what great things God might be doing through them; and it is thus that God has made the record of their history more full of himself, a more unmingled shining light of his providence and grace, than almost any other record, out of the Scriptures, in the history of man.
The relation in which the work first named at the head of this article stands to those that follow will be recognised at once. It is like an announcement of the true system of the universe in comparison with after investigations concerning particular planets. The work on the History of Redemption was a very grand conception in the mind of Edwards-simple and grand, a view of God's plan almost as by revelation, so comprehensive, so illimitable. Butler's Analogy and Edwards's History of Redemption are two very different works, and yet in many respects very similar; both of them wonderfully acute and comprehensive reductions of vast systems within the scope of common minds. But if Edwards's work had had the felicity of being completed by himself according to his first great conception of it, and published by himself with his own final, best judgment, long considered, long elaborated, it might have been the greatest of the two productions. The title which Mr. Erskine gave to it was as follows: "A History of the work of Redemption, containing the outlines of a Body of Divinity, including a view of Church History, in a method entirely new."
The newest thing in this "method entirely new," was not so much the arrangement, as the design and accomplished fact of letting God be seen and not man, or rather God above man, God directing man, and disposing of him and his affairs for the great end of Redemption. The Divine, and not the human, comes out in such a history, or the human only as subordinate to the Divine, and for its purposes. All history is to be viewed in this light, and in its connexon with the scheme, which the mind of Edwards beheld and delineated as the soul and end of all things. Not only God's providence is to be investigated and displayed, but in every part it is to be connected with the onward progress
of the work of Redemption; providences are not only to be marked and acknowledged, but it is to be seen to what great point they converge, what consummation they hasten.
The entirely new method of History thus suggested, is in fact the one adopted by D'Aubigné, with a more vivid dramatic arrangement and coloring, but for the same end, the manifestation of the Divine directing the human, in subordination to the cross. The endeavor to find God, gradually discovers all truth; so this method is destined to reveal the depths of history, and as soon as all the facts of history come to be viewed in this significant light, it will appear as a new science. All history is in fact but an adjunct to Church history, and Church history begins with the creation. If there could be anything cut apart from Church history, so that between the two there can be no connexion traced, the gulf would be like that of chaos, separated by a wall of light from Heaven, and filled with nothing better than a conglomeration of wood, hay, and stubble. But all things tend, in one way or another, into the channel of the work of Redemption; they may tend thus by discipline, if in no other way; and events which seem disconnected from that channel for ages, yet come up afterwards, like streams that have run under ground, reappearing, to pour into the great sea.
The existence of Homer might seem for centuries an affair having nothing to do with the world's redemption. By and by comes up Plato, then Aristotle, then Alexander, and Homer's mind pours through these channels into the soul of the world's conqueror, and Homer's native Greek is spread over the East by the same impulse that makes Alexander a half incarnation of Homer's Achilles. Then comes the translation of the Septuagint, so that the birth of Homer and the spread of God's Word, though disconnected by an interval of hundreds of years, are linked by no fanciful, but a real, deep, and most remarkable connexion.
The poet Goethe said that Aristotle was like a huge Pyramid resting on the earth, and built mathematically for the earth while Plato shoots upward towards heaven like an obelisk, yea, like a pointed flame. Now there are these two types of character, and only these, in all historical literature. The greater part of history rests upon the earth as its foundation, and has the earth for its end; if it is mathematically correct, and solid as a Pyramid, it is only a mausoleum for dead bones, and even its apex does not mean to shoot towards heaven, any more than one of its four corners. But another, though as yet a very small part of history, shoots like the obelisk to heaven; yea, as a pointed flame, or a chariot of flame, carries the soul up to God. Just so, indeed, in all science; one part has the earth only for its object, and is dead; another part has God for its object, and is alive.
The facts of history are living or dead facts, according to the
mind of the observer, and the use men put them to. God lets them remain, sometimes, with their meaning hidden, or overlaid by men's speculations. God lets men work upon providences and facts first, secularly, for their own purposes, sifting them and coloring them for themselves. Next he passes the same facts under different conjunctures, through other mediums, bringing them nearer to a perfection for his purposes. Then he raises up workmen to interweave them, so prepared, into a true history of the Divine Providence in human affairs. Such a history demands the highest qualities and accomplishments of the human mind at work upon it.
There is yet room for such a History of the Puritans. Such a history is demanded, written on the same general plan with D'Aubigné's History of the Reformation. It will be one of the grandest subjects ever yet given to a man of genius; and its masterly execution would make a work so full of interest in regard to the ways of God's Providence and grace, that nothing out of the Divine records could be a more impressive and delightful study. Perhaps the time has not fully come. The facts have not passed through all their previous processes of preparation. They are rapidly doing so, at the hands both of enemies and friends. One man takes them, and puts them in this light, another in that. One constructs a gallery for their arrangement with only one window; another has a skylight, but without the direct sun; another builds a huge camera obscura; seeks to reveal, another to distort, another to hide. By and by, some mind of united genius and piety will arise, and gather all the facts into the right point of view, with God's own light shining on them, and then this history, with the great consequences traced from it, will be the foremost history of all the modern world, in importance and complete development.
The preparations for this great work are gradual and slow. Whole masses of opinion rise and fall again, the tides go in and out, sands shift, and coasts, almost, are altered. The sea rolls where there were palaces. Now and then comes up a mass of materials, with a hand like Carlyle's, to arrange them, under the guidance of an unprejudiced, independent, heroic, and sympathizing mind, and the being whom nearly all the world saw before as a hypocrite and usurper, shines forth, confessed, a man of Truth, a Hero, and a Christian. If the fixed lights of our universe were once wandering mists, which ages have condensed into form and glory, it is no more than takes place in the moral universe, with the growth and fixedness of truth. The elements are long at work. At length nebulosities become distinctly formed masses, and what was at first dimly and falsely seen in other lights, is found to have an unchangeable and imperishable light of its