Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

ecclesiastical superiors, Bishop Colenso and the “spiritual peers.” But the volumes of Ewald in particular, and of all recent eminent critics in less degree, abound in points of learning — often merely curious perbaps, yet often deeply interesting and suggestive - which are wholly passed over by this lecturer, — which have no place in his imposing volume, no, not even in foot-note or appendix. In a work addressed to scholars, even in one addressed to the lay public, we hold that the omission is unpardonable, — certainly, in a work of the size and pretension of this. For a certain picturesque and popular quality, it deserves high praise; as meeting the questions which are sure to rise to every intelligent reader, and which put the topic on the same plane of enlightened interest where we expect to find the early life of every other nation, it is nearly or quite valueless. The discussion of relations of pure history regarding Israel in Egypt, for example, so fruitful and interesting as we find it in Ewald ; the curious chains of association to be found in Balaam's prophecy, suggested in part by Bunsen; the equally curious legendary matter touching the origin and migrations of the Canaanitish tribes; the topics of interest still more remarkable and profound connected with the cycle of Syrian superstitions and the wild Palestinian mythology, with their many traces in the early “ Jewish Church";— these points are either utterly ignored, or handled, if at all, in a vague and slipshod way, as if the object were to avoid the bringing in of new objects of interest into this “sacred” field. After reading with care, and often with much pleasure, these five hundred handsome pages, we are obliged to say that the English reader must still seek the points of scholarly interest in volumes of half the size and far more moderate pretensions. And, in place of the verdict we should be glad to render, we have to sum up our judgment of this book, that its value lies in its popular descriptions, its diffuse and flowing rhetoric, and its abstinence from the forbidden fruit of knowledge.

It is somewhat surprising that the doctrinal heresies of Dr. Colenso's commentary on the Epistle to the Romans * should have passed almost unheeded, while the critical heresies in his notes on the Mosaic accountt should have aroused such indignation. In the limits of his commentary, he is able to repudiate nearly all that is peculiar to Calvinism. In the Introduction, he tells us what regeneration is, — "the insensible working of God's good spirit upon the heart, leading men in the way of truth and righteousness." When Jesus says, “I and my Father are one,” he does not speak of “his substantial unity with the Father, but only of his unity of will and word with him.” The early Church were Jews at heart, and had for a long time no purpose of forsaking Judaism. The first teaching of the Apostles was only a reformed Judaism. Many were admitted into the Apostolic Church by baptism “ who were very deficient in that which we should now consider an intel

* St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Newly Translated and Explained from a Missionary Point of View. By the Right Rev. J. W. COLENSO, D. D., Bishop of Natal. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1863. 12mo. pp. 261.

† We are reluctantly obliged to defer a notice of the second part of this treatise.

ligent knowledge of the Christian faith.” In the early Church, too, “they had no presbyters or deacons among them, much less a bishop in the later sense of the word "; the original order was substantially congregational.

But the heresies of the Preface are mild in comparison with the heresies of the text. In this the author successively opposes and denounces the doctrine that death came into the world through sin, or that God needs to be reconciled to man, the doctrine of vicarious atonement, the doctrine of total depravity and original sin, the doctrine of election, of mysteries, of vindictive punishment, and of eternal damna. tion. To this last dogma he devotes an elaborate dissertation, in which he exposes, with all the eloquence of a truth-loving soul, the inconsistencies, the inhumanity, and the revolting wickedness of this unchristian theory. No Universalist could set forth the Divine purpose in punishment more persuasively. Dr. Colenso finds nothing in the Bible or in the Prayer-Book which requires men to believe that any are born to be damned, or that any will be lost eternally. The doctrine of the Trinity does not come into the discussion in a work of this kind. Yet it is noticeable that Dr. Colenso, in those texts which have been used as proof. texts, invariably adopts the Unitarian reading and the Unitarian explanation.

The theory of this commentary is, that God loves man, always loved him, never hated him, and never will hate him; that there is no change in his feeling toward man, or toward men, by the atonement of Christ, but that this change is all in the minds and hearts and lives of men; that death is not a curse, but a blessing, and is no part of the penalty which God appoints for sin; that in all souls, however undeveloped, there is some spiritual life, there are the rudiments of the heavenly life; that the “spirit of Christ” is his spiritual life, and that we are saved by this as much as by his death; that there is no guilt without actual, conscious sin ; that conscience is the supreme law, and the Church has no right to compel men to receive what “contradicts the law of righteousness and truth and love"; that there have always been, and still are, true servants of God and accepted children among the heathen ; that sudden conversion, though possible, is not probable ; that the heavenly state is also probationary, with degrees of excellence and degrees of happiness, from which it is possible to rise or fall; and that revelation can only be interpeted by reason.

To find fault with so cheering a volume may seem ungracious; yet we are constrained to say that the translation is not very satisfactory, either in its English idiom or in the changes which it makes from the common version. There is a prevailing awkwardness in the style, which creates new obscurity, while it seeks to dissipate the obscurity of the thought. The special criticism of verses does not indicate a wide range of reading. In the notes on the sixteenth chapter, for instance, Dr. Colenso confounds Erastus and Sopater with the persons of that name mentioned in Acts xx., which he would hardly have done on a more careful examination. He lays too much stress, too, upon that verbal play of the “at-one-ment,” which is better as a pleasant fancy than as the foundation of an argument. His commentary is valuable rather as a sign of the times, than as an original contribution to theological science.

Very different in style and tone, in simplicity and fairness, from the writings of Dr. Colenso are the arrogant and mocking criticisms of his New York reviewer,* the “ St. Marks-in-the-Bowery Professor of Ecclesiastical History.” Instead of an “ Answer,” the work of this dignified Professor is a sneer, fortified by anathema more than by argument. It pleases him to call the honest English Bishop an " in fidel; to insinuate that he has some false-hearted, sinister motive; to pronounce him ignorant of the first principles of fair inquiry; and to treat the book that he criticises as almost too contemptible to deserve notice. Dr. Mahan condescends, in the pride of his superior wisdom, to annihilate this rash meddler in theology with a few decisive and crushing words. He will discharge what friends have thought to be the duty of a man so competent; but will do it in a very summary way, and not waste much time upon it. A thin duodecimo, easy reading for a couple of hours, shall settle the question, and make it impossible for the culprit to appear in court again. A "spiritual” critic, discerning things spiritually, will demolish all the mean materialism of this rationalist, this physical and arithmetical commentator.

If Dr. Colenso finds no enemy stronger than this New York Churchman, his triumph is sure. In all that is positive, Dr. Mahan's work justifies the heresies of the innovator he would silence. It makes admissions which really concede the point in discussion, and its way of stating heresies in criticism only renders them more pernicious. According to Dr. Mahan, it is of no importance or necessity that an inspired or, infallible Scripture should be infallibly true. God may inspire falsehood, if he can do good by that process. He may say what he knows is scientifically, numerically, or even morally, incorrect, if so he can make the divine message interesting. In Dr. Colenso’s book there is no sentence so daring as this, by which Dr. Mahan clenches his argument against the need of an exact Scripture : “ Besides which, such a book, if written, would never have been read. To the mass of men, it would have been less intelligible, and less interesting, than Aristotle's Ethics.” Or take such paragraphs as these (p. 59):

“ However this may be, Moses took the family list of Jacob, just as Jacob had left it; and inserted it — with all its sins against arithmetic on its head - in his books of Genesis and Exodus."

“ But as an inspired man, had he a right to overlook or to sanction these sins against modern arithmetic ?

“I answer, Yes; the Holy Ghost did not inspire him to be a pedant or arithmetician. He was raised up and inspired for a holier and better work. As an historian of truth, and not a detailer of mere facts, — as a prophet of - -

* The Spiritual Point of View; or, The Glass Reversed. An Answer to Bishop Colenso. By M. MAHAN, D. D., St. Marks-in-the-Bowery Professor of Ecclesias. tical History in the General Theological Seminary. “Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.” New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1863. 12mo. pp. 114.

the old world, not a Gradgrind of the nineteenth century,– he concerned himself chiefly with weightier matters of the law.

" If a slight inaccuracy in figures — an inaccuracy, that is, from one point of view should turn out to be the means of suggesting spiritual reflections, it would be just the kind of inaccuracy that large-minded men of all ages delight in ; an inaccuracy, I may reverently add, not alien or displeasing to the Spirit of Divine Truth.

According to Dr. Mahan, then, “ mere facts” are of no consequence to inspired men, and exact numbers are not according to the method of the Spirit of Truth. Large-minded men like Moses, speaking as the Lord bade, rather delight to neglect and distort the truth about these “ facts,” and to plague the Gradgrinds. And yet this doctor calls the men who deny the infallible inspiration of the Bible “infidel.” If this is inspiration, anything is inspiration. If the Holy Spirit need not state facts, then neither Colenso nor any other critic will trouble himself to show that there are mistakes in the Pentateuch. We hazard nothing in saying, that such statements as these of the New York Professor do more to bring the Bible into contempt than any honest exposition of its real errors. If we understand them rightly, they mean that the Bible is all the more divine, all the more inspired, that it is untrustworthy in scientific or historical facts; and that the Holy Spirit loves to encourage errors of a material kind. This is discussing things from a “spiritual point of view " indeed; reversing the glass with a vengeance, - saving inspiration at the expense of truth.

Dr. Mahan fancies that he has overwhelmed the heretical Bishop in this one general answer, that all his quibbles are of no importance, as they do not touch the true idea of inspiration. But he attempts some special answers to the special objections of Colenso's book. No reader will consider these answers satisfactory, in a single instance. They evade the difficulties and strive only to throw dust in the eyes of readers. Dr. Mahan speaks contemptuously of Colenso's scholarship;we can find no evidence of any thorough scholarship in his own pages. And certainly, if his statement on page 13, that Moses “reduced the power” of a master over his slaves “ a little in the case of the Jews, and made their law of slavery more humane than that of other nations," among whom he mentions the Romans, — that it was a “merciful addition to the practice that prevailed generally among the most enlightened nations of antiquity," — if this statement is to be received, then indeed not only the Pentateuch, but Moses himself, becomes unhistorie cal. He is brought down to a time a thousand years or so later than that which is assigned to the Exodus, and becomes the contemporary of the later Hebrew kings. It indeed “reverses the glass” to discover Moses in the age of Hezekiah.

A more unscholarlike book than this of Dr. Mahan has never come under our notice. Its plea is subtle, though hardly specious ; its argument is in part assertion and in part denunciation ; and it does wanton violence to the spirit of truth. The motto on the title-page is strangely misplaced as the heading of such a volume.

AFTER an interval of two years or more, another number of Bunsen's Bibelwerk * gives promise of the future more rapid continuation of the work. The present issue, edited by Dr. Heinrich Holzmann, of Heidelberg, contains the translation of the four Gospels, with annotations and a comparative synopsis of the narratives of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The diction, as in those portions of the Old Testament which have thus far appeared, is that of Luther's version, whereby the Bibelwerk preserves the popular and sacred associations of the national Vulgate, while giving to the German people a new German Bible which correctly represents the original; in other words, making the genuine Word accessible, and so "opening the Scriptures." The result will be a “Family Bible," purged of the old errors, corrected and illustrated by all the lights of modern criticism, - a work equally suited to the scholar and the illiterate. When shall we have an English Bible on the same plan ?

The present number is soon to be followed, according to the announcement of the publishers, by the first half of the fifth Halbband, containing the Psalms; then by the second half, containing the Proyerbs and Job. Then will come the sixth Halbband, containing the other not yet published portions of the Old Testament; and finally, the eighth Halbbund with the remainder of the New Testament. With that the First Division of the Bibelwerk will be complete.

The principal contributors to this work since Bunsen's death are his two sons, to whom he committed its management, Heinrich von Bunsen in England, and Dr. George von Bunsen in Bonn. Associated with them are Adolph Kamphausen of Bonn, Dr. Richard Adelbert Lipsius of Vienna, Johannes Bleek of Bonn, and Dr. Heinrich Holzmann of Heidelberg, to whom is assigned the preparation and editing of the books of the New Testament.

z

te PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE. , The characteristic qualities of Herbert Spencer, as a writer on philosophy, are his singular faculty of minute analysis, the firmness with which he holds, and the accuracy with which he follows out, the most delicate threads of his argument, together with the clear and decisive style in which he records the processes of his thought. There is a striking calmness and moderation, also, in the tone even of the statement which indicates the widest difference in his view from the current opinion he assails, -a fairness and evenness in striking contrast with the polemic temper oftenest found in such discussions. The only hint of personal feeling, the only shade of injustice, that we can recall, is in a passing reference to the future rewards of virtue, as if that made the true or the only ground of the religious motive of duty. The qualities we have named, if not the highest, are among the highest, of a philosophical thinker; and it is very rare to find them in anything like the

* Bunsen's Bibelwerk. Erste Abtheilung. Die Bibel-Uebersetzung und Erklärung. Vierter Theil. Die Bücher des Neuen Bundes. Siebenter Halbband. Leipzig : F. A. Brockhaus.

VOL. LXXIV. - 5TH S. VOL. XII. NO. III.

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »