but a very real and formidable obstacle in the way of truth. On the other hand, the indifference of those who, in ceasing to worship the Bible, have ceased to use it, is equally hostile to the religious life. The Old Testament is fast becoming a sealed book in Christian homes; while the New is rarely made the subject of patient, careful, and candid study. “A popular introduction to the study of the Bible, accessible to all, giving all the assured results of modern criticism, all the best supported probabilities upon doubtful matters, and a summary of the most respectable conjectures on questions hopelessly inaccurate,”* is needed at the present time far more than the republication of old sermons and essays, however excellent, or the revision of a Bible dictionary written in the interests of a moderate, but always prejudiced, Orthodoxy. On its speculative side, the subject of Inspiration is likely to be sufficiently discussed in the great controversy, which is still far enough from being settled, between the Positive and Intuitional philosophies. But there is a practical side of the question, for whose decision those who are not philosophers cannot await the issue of these speculations. Nor is the decision so difficult as is sometimes imagined. What is needed is perfect freedom from prejudice, perfect fairness in dealing with all the facts in the case. Let those who urge that the Bible should be read like any other book acknowledge with Parker the significance of the facts, that no other collection of writings. has taken such hold on the world as this; that, while famous writers on morals and religion have arisen in one century to be forgotten in the next, “the silver cord of the Bible is not loosed, nor its golden bowl broken, as Time chronicles his tens of centuries gone by.” In a word, let the radical, the rationalist, and the theist frankly admit the transcendent worth of those Scriptures, to which they themselves have been indebted for so much of their highest truth and their best inspiration. Perhaps it will then be seen, that the simplest and most rational way to make the inspiration of other scriptures, and of all high literature, appreciated and felt, will be to lead men to a free and loving study of those Scriptures which, for moral and spiritual influence, are still the Bible par excellence of humanity.

* See an admirable article in the “Radical,” for March, 1867, on “What the People read,” a review of some popular tracts on the Bible by Spiritualists and “ Infidels."

But equal fairness in dealing with this great question must be demanded of all those, of whatever denominational name, who still hold to the doctrine of Scripture infallibility. Let those who claim for the writers of the Old and New Testaments an inspiration “ different in kind* from that of the saints and prophets of all ages and all dispensations, consider whether such a claim does not strike at the validity of all inspiration, by practically ignoring the divine presence in all history, save that of the Jews. We are grateful for Dr. Curtis' testimony, that, “ in all the Evangelical denominations, a growing number of the most intelligent and influential ministers, including some conspicuously active and useful in every good word and work, are quietly drifting in the direction" indicated by the book we have reviewed.

Only on the common ground of accepting the Bible for its mighty influence and its profound religious significance, can all who have at heart the promotion of goodness and piety among men work together in this holy cause., What of good the Bible, worshipped as an idol, and believed to be what modern intelligence knows it is not, has done for humanity in the past, shall be wholly eclipsed in the brightness of its acknowledged excellence as the grandest record of man's converse with the Infinite, the loftiest utterance of the soul's undying faith and hope.

* See an article in the Christian Examiner, July, 1867, p. 27.


Egypt's Place in Universal History. An Historical Investigation, in

five books. By C. C. J. BARON BUNSEN, D.Ph., D.C.L., and D.D. Translated from the German by CHARLES H. COTTRELL, Esq., M.A.; with Additions by SAMUEL BIRCH, LL.D. Vol. V. London : Longmans, Green, & Co., 1867.

In the long annals of mankind, there appears now and then a name which makes the whole world debtor. More commonly, we find men who, by a certain brute force of will, turn the current of its life, and impress themselves, or at least their eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, indelibly upon its succeeding waves. Of this latter class was John Calvin. Of the former was and is Christian Carl Josias Bunsen. With our hand upon his last volume, the English edition of which appears as the posthumous work of both author and translator, it seems to us that human immortality never found a nobler illustration. The work which survives testifies to the surviving soul. These five volumes suggest a design so magnificent; reveal a learning so wide, so varied, and so accurate; the plan of their publication suggests a faith in humanity so sincere, a faith in Truth, his God, so unwavering, — that the study of them is at once a satisfaction and an inspiration.

When Bunsen began to work, Goodwin, Le Page Renouf, and Dr. Hincks were busy in England; Chabas, De Rougé, and Devéria, in France; Brugsch, Duemichen, Lauth, Lepsius, and Pleyte, in Germany: with a corps of assistants in each country, employed as translators or transcribers. No sooner did one of these men complete any section of his work, than it was published, or copied and sent to the others, that each might have the advantage of the labors of all. In especial, Lepsius and Bunsen exchanged papers, and published their great works in sections, that all possible light might be furnished by both at each advancing step. There was never a finer example of true communion in scholarship: each man fired

with the zeal of knowledge, emulous only as to who should serve most; differing each from the other to the end, as to some important particulars, but never losing, through all, the sense of brotherhood and active trust; and each holding back the results of his own work, till he had examined that of the other.

Still greater obstacles to a popular knowledge of this book than the severe study it requires, may be found in the extent of acquisition demanded to make the reading of it profitable, and the great cost of the volumes themselves. Men may learn to study in time; they may grow in patience with a plan necessarily cumbersome; they may kindle into admiration, and acquire general learning, so as to fit themselves for appreciation: but there is no hope that the cost of these volumes will greatly diminish. That the Messrs. Longman should have been willing to furnish a font of hieroglyphic characters, at a cost such as is usually assumed only by foreign governments, seems somewhat like a miracle, and shows a generous zeal which this author was entitled to kindle.

No books ever published contain ampler learning of the sort that clergymen ought to acquire; none bear more directly, or with more telling force, on the modern debate as to the historic value of our Scriptures: yet they are books which it is hopeless to suppose that more than one clergyman in five hundred will ever glance over, much less study or possess.

In this country, we suppose, no man exists who is qualified to criticise them adequately. Is any qualified by knowledge of the great geologic convulsions which have prepared the globe for the habitation of man, he will fail, perhaps, in knowledge of the distribution of races, and of the philologic suggestions to be found in their own names, and those of their earliest localities. Should he fortunately be familiar with philologic ground, he may fail in intimate acquaintance with those remains of ancient literature which bear all the more truly, because indirectly, upon the great problems to be solved. Should he have mastered these, he must turn his attention to the sacred books and traditions of all Central Asiatic nations; our own Scripture must be set over against the Zend, the Vendidad, and the Vedas; and the absence of all tradition of a deluge in China and Egypt accounted for. Should he find himself competent to this problem, a severer one confronts him: he must arm himself with a special knowledge of the Semitic languages; and, when these have become familiar as his mother tongue, he must be prepared for a hieroglyphic or hieratic text, and not shrink from an investigation of the modern Coptic. Nor can he proceed without the widest general culture : for the history of Phoenicia must be ransacked for suggestive points; and rare mathematical and astronomical knowledge is required, that he may examine for himself all previous deductions as to the duration of cycles, the various means employed for the correction of the Julian year, and the possible origin of the various phases of Astral worship. Above all, he must be a man with his eyes wide open, who shall readily perceive the significance of all the small facts, daily coming into notice, upon the great problems to be solved. If we are to be gov. erned by the estimate which Bunsen puts upon the labors of his English reviewers, in his fifth volume, England has produced no man better fitted for this work than the critics of our own country; but we need not be so governed, for, of the fairness of the few reviews that have appeared, common sense is a sufficiently competent judge.*

So far as Bunsen's reviewers have produced any effect upon the popular mind, it has probably been the creating of a certain distrust of Bunsen, founded upon the great difference between his estimate of the period required for the evolution of human civilization, and what is ordinarily called “ Biblical

* It is interesting to observe, that the same fond love of patient labor over minute details, which tends to make women eminent observers in astronomy, has already produced one Egyptologist, — Miss Corbaux. We find her, in 1855, writing an Introduction to a work on the so-called Exodus Papyri, by the Rev. J. D. Heath; and, although she started with a false theory, which vitiated her results, Baron Bunsen gives her candid praise, as the first English author who has entered upon the discussion of this subject, and as having intuitively seized, in her starting point, one of the most important problems to be solved.

« ElőzőTovább »