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which “exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees," that," although resembling theirs in kind, it infinitely surpasses theirs in degree.” The author is clear that it was when our Saviour “ descended into hell,” that He “preached to the spirits in prison, on safe-keeping." (P. 251, 395, 16.) He asserts, concerning the punishment of the lost, that “it is quite impossible to prove even that the language of Scripture is figurative." . He advances the proposition that (p. 467) "Scripture, Reason, and Experience, convince us that some natures afford a better soil for the growth of spiritual seed than others.” He adopts (p. 580) the following most objectionable remark from Williams -a remark which we find it difficult to reconcile with the solemn promises of our clergy to teach nothing as necessary to salvation but that which may be concluded and proved by the Scripture.” “I think,” says he, “it may be stated generally, that they who expect clear and express warrant in the words of Scripture as concerning the doctrine of the TRINITY, and the like, will find nothing of this kind promised in our Lord's teaching; but, on the contrary, hints and allusions thrown out, which He, by and by, in His Church, or in the ways of a particular Providence, will solve to those who will obey Flim, and to those alone." While, too, we would not contend for a word too much or too little, yet it has no Protestant sound to speak (p. 636) of “a maiden worthy to become the mother of our blessed Redeemer.” A distinction like the following is also most painful and unscriptural, (p. 657,) where, on the words, “the wrath of God abideth on him,” “See," exclaims an ancient bishop, “how He refers to the Father when He speaks of punishment. He says not 'the wrath of the Son, though the Son is Judge; but He makes the Father the Judge in order to alarm men more.” It is stated as a matter of which the reader only needs to be “reminded,” (p. 665,) “that Christian churches do not take the place of the Jewish synagogues, but of the temple of Jerusalem itself.” “The very condition of mercy,” it is said, (p. 726,)“is to sin no more ;" when, in fact, in each instance in which the charge occurs, our Saviour first freely granted His merciful relief, and then uttered that charge. It is the doctrinal character of this book, that it expatiates VOL. VI.-11
much over that which is least within the grasp of the human reason; that it delights in subjects the most exalted or mysterious, and passes more cursorily over those which are plainer; that it loves glimpses, suggestions, conjectures, though not always stated as such, rather than clear, evident truth disclosed
in all its full proportions. Pages on pages are devoted to the • exposition of those passages which display, in any degree, the
mystery of the Holy Trinity, the union of the divine and hu. man natures in the incarnation and the dignity of the Sacraments; while the actual atonement for sin, the justification of the sinner by faith, and the operation of divine grace in changing the heart and life, are passed with but a little panse. We verily believe that less is said in this Commentary of the death of our Lord as a propitiation for sin, than of the ignorance of the powers of darkness respecting His incarnation ; a favorite idea, which is at least seven times urged, and to which that saying is singnlarly applied, as if they were indeed the subject of allusion ; “ for, had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." When the author has an occasion to speak of “the works of Abraham,” he notices, in passing, “the controversy so often senselessly waged concerning Faith and Works ;” and on a theme which St. Paul thought worthy to hold so large a place in his writings, we hear no more. We are not ignorant of the cause of this partiality in the degree of attention bestowed on different truths; and it is not to be regarded as mere matter of censure. There are different classes of scriptural doctrines; the elder ages fixed their attention more on some; and to others the thonghts of men were more turned by the Reformation. We can not wish that he had read the ancient interpreters less; but had he studied the modern more, and more widely, his work had doubtless been more complete.
Then, perhaps, he might have esteemed it as much “within the province” of a Commentary as of a Harmony (p. 256, 883) to arrange in their order the interesting circumstances recorded severally by the Evangelists. He might have refrained from throwing scorn (p. 257, 288) on the labors of great and good men who have confirmed the faith of multitudes by their
* Evidences of Christianity;" if not on those evidences themselves, of which what are the Gospels but a record ? He might have thrust aside, with somewhat less of abhorrence, the critical comments of men who have studied the Scriptures in no nndiscerning or profane spirit; and who can even have believed (p. 512) that an Evangelist might place together sayings which had been spoken at different times; or (p. 760) that our Lord might walk in Solomon's porch, a covered place, because
it was winter;" or may have thought they discerned a natural cause for the effect which followed the wound inflicted by the spear (p. 902) without supposing that they were to be dismissed with this sentence, “ They know not what they say;" or eren may have spoken of an inspired apostle, as “ quoting from memory,” as who could more safely quote, guided as such a memory must be, without being liable to the condemna. tion that over their words " Angels must weep." (P. 792.) It is possible, too, that a more familiar acquaintance with the modes of thought which prevail in the age in which it is our lot to live, might have led him to doubt the expediency of saying that the care of Joseph of Arimathea, bestowed on the body of his Lord, had “consecrated expensive funerals," (p. 905;) or of stating, as the general belief of the ancient churches, that Elijah," the Tishbite, will yet appear in person before Christ's final advent,” (p. 162 ;) or of speaking (p. 149) of “the unholy alliance which is ever and anon formed against the Church of these realms by the various sects, whether of home or foreign growth, which are (wisely] tolerated amongst us."
It would be unfortunate should the peculiar tone of this Commentary infuse itself into the minds of private readers, the instructions of Sunday-school teachers, and the expositions of the Bible-class and pulpit. We want a biblical criticism, which shall not only be diligent, reverential, and learned, but also open, honest, wise, and comprehensive; which shall not so seek for obscurer meanings and doubtful and distant relations as to pass by such as are broader and more obvious, and which shall never speak of a "pious supposition” and seek to exercise a kind of holy ingenuity where the question is but one of TRUTH. Well do we remember the effect of Newman's sermons on many minds soon after their publication. They were deemed so striking, original, suggestive: and so indeed they were. But it was simply because an intellect at once acute and imaginative was weaving for itself the web in which it was to be itself entangled. That which has been surveyed on every side by so many millions, throughout eighteen centuries, will never cease to yield rich fruit to study pursued with uprightness, humility, and prayer; but the aspects of divine truth which are the surest and the most necessary will always be those which are also the broadest, the oldest, and the most familiar amongst Christians.
But, after all, the “ Plain Commentary," though not very well designated by its chosen title, is a book to be read, with a little caution, and along with other expositions, but then with real pleasure and godly instruction. If its accents are such as to remind us sometimes of other ages than those of the Apostles or of the Reformation, yet those others are the ages of Augustin and of Anselm.
ART. II.--CHURCH STATISTICS.
Census of the United States, 1850. Journal of General Con
vention, 1856. Journals of Diocesan Convention, 1858.
The very mention of statistics, to a certain class of minds, brings up visions of dry, meaningless, worthless tables of fig. ures; the unsightly skeletons of what unimaginative intellects delight in and call facts. The sharpest weapons of sarcasm and almost contempt, are sometimes edged with jokes upon men and upon societies who make it their business to note the “ how many” of existences and of deeds, and the “times when” of events; the arithmeticians to whom the numeration table is the most interesting of studies. And yet, the dictionaries being our witness, Statistics are a science; nay more, they are a part of municipal philosophy.” Governments, civil and ecclesiastical, have expended largely of their means and their energies, in ascertaining and classifying and recording all the facts that might exhibit, in comprehensive forms, the past, the present, and the prospective resources of the nations or communities under their care. They have deemed the lessons of profit and loss thus to be learned, as valuable to them as any which the merchant might deduce from his journal and his ledger, wonld be to him in shaping the movements of his own expanding or contracting business. They have felt that if the knowledge which each man and each child of active intellect is ever gathering as to his own immediate neighborhood, could be brought, as it were, to a common focus, where all night learn, if not in detail, yet in summary, what individuals have separately acquired, the general results wonld be as interesting and valuable to the mass as were the particulars to those whom they more immediately concerned.
The Holy Scriptures themselves, especially of the Old Testament, abound in what we might call statistical data. Look, for example, at the genealogies of the antediluvian patriarchs, and of the sons of Noah, in the Book of Genesis. See how minute is the census of the flocks and herds of Job, both before and after his afflictions. Observe the accuracy and com: pleteness of the enumerations in the Book of Numbers, of Joshna, and in the other historical books of the Jewish Scriptures. Indeed, if the Jewish Rabbins and Hengstenberg are good authority, we may find in thě number of verses in the Psalms, and in the number of repetitions of the several names of the Deity, lessons of most profound significance. Nor is this regard for statistics confined to the Old Testament. How vivid is that picture of the feeding of the five thousand, when we see them grouped by the Evangelists into ranks and companies of hundreds and of fifties. Who would exchange, for any generalities, that “number of the names together," the one hundred and twenty disciples gathered in an upper room at Jerusalem? Or who does not rejoice that it is written of the first fruits of the Pentecostal harvest, “The same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” ?