The Internal And External Element Of Religion -- By: James W. Ward

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 006:24 (Nov 1849)
Article: The Internal And External Element Of Religion
Author: James W. Ward


The Internal And External Element Of Religion

Rev. James W. Ward

Systems of religion very dissimilar in character have, at different times and places, prevailed in the world. They have all, however, been alike in one particular, viz. the profession of two grand elemental principles — an internal and an external one; and the difference between them has arisen mainly from the different proportion in which these two elements have been combined. It is true in the moral as in the natural world, that the same elements, when united in different proportions, produce compounds whose characteristics are not only unlike, but even opposite to each other. As alcohol and sugar, the one poisonous and the other nutritious, are formed, by combining in different proportions the same original elements (carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen), so paganism and Christianity, the one a baseless fabric of hope, and the other the power of God unto salvation, are formed by the union, in different proportions, of internalism and externalism, or faith and form. These two elements possess each its

own peculiar characteristics, and are easily distinguishable the one from the other. They differ in their nature, the one being spiritual and the other material. As all religion is action of some kind —the one is the action of the soul, and the other that of the body. The one consists in prayers, penances, prostrations, baptisms, bands, cowls, mosques, temples — all the work of the outward man and all pertaining to that bodily exercise which profiteth nothing; while the other consists in penitence, faith, hope, love, and other internal exercises which, when directed to their proper objects and duly combined, constitute that godliness which is profitable to all things, having the promise of two worlds, the present and the coming. They differ, too, in their permanence; the one being transient, and the other abiding forever. The altars on which the patriarchs sacrificed the victim and the incense; the temples of Solomon and Herod, in which kings, priests, and people paid their devotions; the linen ephod and the breastplate of the high priest; the show-bread and the ark of the testimony; the externals of the Jewish economy, have long since passed away. But the spiritual emotions, the reverence, love, and joy which these outward acts and objects tended to awaken and deepen, still live, and will live as long as the redeemed souls of patriarchs and prophets shall continue to bow and worship around the eternal throne. Whatever acts, then, are performed by the bodily organs, and must cease to be performed when the body crumbles to decay, belong to externalism. But those which are the product of the mind, and may be prod...

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