« ElőzőTovább »
were undefended. It is to a brief consideration of one or two of the recent attempts to meet this last-mentioned antagonism that the present article is devoted.
Of the leaders of the present mythical school of German skepticism, we need not say that Strauss has been the most potent . He was educated in the school of Hegel, and derived his fundamental conceptions from that profound philosopher. According to Hegel, the absolute religion is Christianity, though other creeds, as preparatory or ancillary to it, have each their subjective reality. The unity of God with man, the sum of all religion, was carried out in the one God-man. This union, through the Spirit, is to bo made the common property of all men. But these truths are not to bo learned through revelation. We only know God and His attributes through His evolution of Himself in our hearts.
At Hegel's death, his kingdom, like that of Alexander, (to adopt the illustration of one of his eulogists,) was not only divided among his lieutenants, but was destroyed by their dissensions. Among them Strauss was prominent; and in the struggles for the management of the disciples of their common master, he had great advantages. His understanding was eminently sharp, clear, and analytic. His style—a very peculiar phenomenon in German philosophy—was elastic and fresh. He approximated nearer than any other German skeptic to that gay impudence which the English unbeliever of the Bolingbroke school employed to confuse an honest though awkward faith. These advantages, added to the prestigo of the Hegelian camp, attached to him at once the advance-guard of German speculative theology.
Had Hegel lived, he would have been as much amazed at the operations performed on his theory by Strauss, as Kant was by the similar work attempted towards him by Schelling. Strauss discovered that the Hegelian assumption of an historical God - man must go. It was an hypothesis inconsistent with the prime principle of Hegel, since this notion or idea could not exhaust itself on the individual or ego, but must be the common property of the race. Hence all mankind is the Son of God. The Christ of the Gospels is a mere myth. This follows from the unreality of the New Testament Scripture?, which is proved, (1) by their irreconcilable contradictions; (2) by their repugnancy to historical reality; and (3) on the assumption that they are authentic by their consistency with the hypothesis of merely human attributes in Jesus. This was the office of the Leben Jesu. A step farther was taken in the Glaubcnslehre, in which Strauss maintained that modern science had evaporated revelation altogether. His death opened the way for another advance under the guide of Bauer of Tubingen, onee the teacher of Strauss, and now his successor. Bauer applies the solvent of criticism to the apostolical history in the same way that Strauss did to the biography of our Lord. To what extent he has succeeded will be evidenced by the fact that he has abolished the scriptural canons, and has resolved into a myth the entire primitive Church.*
In what way this school of skepticism has been met wo will now briefly consider. Foremost and most efficient in the work of vindicating both common-sense and faith, is Dr. J. H. Ebhard. Himself a descendant of Huguenots, ho has adhered through choice as well as education to the Reformed faith, (holding a moderate Calvinism, somewhat in the nature of that of Leigh ton,) as distinguished from the Lutheran. Of Olshausen's instructions he was able to avail himself when at Erlancen: and it is not a little to his credit that he has been able not merely to conclude, but to do so with success, the masterly commentaries which his great instructor left in an unfinished state. In 1849, ho was elected Professor at Erlangen, where, until 1853, when he took the post of Consislorialrath at Speyer, he labored with great energy and fidelity, maintaining incidentally the integrity of his reformed principles in the midst of a faculty otherwise entirely Lutheran. Familiar with French, and not unconversant with English, he attracted no little attention at the meeting of the Evangelical Alliance in London in 1851.
•IIow far he has gone, may be Been from the fact that In his "das Christenthum unil dto Clirlstilche Kirche der drcl eraten Jahrhunderte," p. 44S, (a work, we are glad to say, as yet untranslated,) he tells us that " forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, assurance, and peace of conscience are the products of every religion; and were to be obtained even in heathendom, by those who believed in the god*, in whose gift these- highest graces of spiritual life lay." All faiths become thus alike In the light of an absolute subjectivity. None exist objectively; each exists savingly and comfortably, however, to him that believes It to be true.
Dr. Ebhard, though scarcely more than at his prime—he is now about forty-five—and though with a large proportion of his time for many years mortgaged to his professor's duties, has published a series of works, the aggregate bulk as well as the elaborateness of which few American divines would conceive to be practicable. Among these we may mention a treatise on Systematic Divinity, (2 vols. 1851;) a treatise on the Lord's Supper, (2 vols. 1845 ;) lectures on Practical Divinity, (1854 ;) and a commentary on Hebrews and Revelation, being an appendix to Olshausen, (published in Germany in 1850-2, and republished in England in Clark's Theological Library, and in this country by Professor Kendrick.) To these is to be added what is particularly before us—a philosophical criticism of the evangelical history, (Wissenschaftliche Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte, 1841, 1851,) being substantially a defense of the Gospels against the attack of Strauss.
The literary charms of Strauss exist in almost equal degree with Ebhard; and hence the apologist has the advantages of access, so far as recommendatory power of manner and stylo is concerned, to the same class of minds as the assailant. Frank, animated, pugnacious, as well as laborious and able, he treats Strauss very much with the same mixture of persiflage and confutation—of dogmatic denunciation with close and logical retort—with which Bishop Watson treated Paine. If he jokes, it is without coarseness; if he becomes diffuse, he never ceases to be vivacious as well as elaborate. There is always at the bottom a profound reverence to God and devotedness to the cause of Christianity which attracts for him respect, while his talents and ardor secure for him attention. It is greatly to be wished that a translation of his defense of the Gospels could be so scattered in this country as to go wherever Strauss has led the way.
Hengstenberg's vast energy and fine gifts were turned to the same object, obliquely, it is true, but not the less effectually. The character and history of this eminent man we may pause for a moment to consider. For the office of a Christian apologist he possesses great gifts. Introduced by marriage into a high social position at Berlin; invested by the administration of the king whose retirement this year has witnessed with an ecclesiastical influence equal to that maintained by Lord Shaftesbury under the Palmerston government; gifted, not with that creative power or speculative intrepidity which the tendency of his age and nation might have turned to an ill account, but with a profound and chivalric reverence for truth, with vigorous and almost intolerant common-sense, with singular hermeneutical sagacity, and with a severe and ponderous logic, he was the man of all others to gain a hearing for the orthodox faith among the polite, and a triumph for it among the learned. He knew no half-way advocacy; and it was well that such was the case, for when he began to write there was a paradox in an unreserved faith which excited an attention which was denied to a hesitating and qualified confession. The genuineness of the canon, old and new, the inspiration of thought, if not of letter, the absoluteness, the completeness, and the necessity of the word of God as a means of salvation against the Rationalists as well as against the Romanists, were asserted by him almost singly at a time when such an advocacy would have been audacious were it not sublime. It was enough for him that Christianity was in danger. It made no matter to him that the assailants were countless and the defenders but few. With his usual chivalry he flung himself into the place where the defense seemed most weak. This was the historical books of the Old Testament. Here a siege had been maintained under the united forces of Gesenius, of Eichhorn, of Valke, of Stahelin, of Yan Bohlen, of Tuch, of Ewald. Genesis was the particular point of attack. Eichhorn declared that it was pieced up from two supposititious documents ; Ugen from three; Vatef from an innumerable number. One class treated it as a myth, another as au allegory, another as a guess, another as a legend. Nor did the attack spend itself on Genesis. The whole Pentateuch was declared, and truly too, to be involved in the fate of its first book. And upon the prophets an attack was begun, which was already signalized by the surrender of Daniel by most even of orthodox critics, and of Zechariah by not a few.
It was in defense of this humanly forlorn cause that Heng6tenberg, with the most dauntless courage, and with a controversial grandeur which enabled him to tower above every assailant, threw himself into the midst of the fray. At once his presence was signally felt. There was a lofty moral and religions purpose about him that gave him superhuman power and dignity, for it was the dignity of truth and faith. To this were added an ingenuity and strength which enabled him to reconcile discrepancies which less confident and less sagacious apologists had admitted to be contradictions; to show how the apparently trivial letter of the levitical ordinances was pregnant with the sublimest moral and spiritual teaching; to vindicate the integrity of the disputed documents; and to prove that in perfect conformity with them were the doctrines of grace as held by the Lutheran and Reformed Communions. The volumes in which this great work was achieved are known to most of onr readers. The first in point of date was the "Contributions to the Introduction to the New Testament," published in 1831, the special object of which was the vindication of the gennineness of the Pentateuch, of Daniel, of Zechariah. Still more valuable than this, from its spiritual as well as its critical power, is his Christology of the Old Testament, a revised edition of which was published in 1854, and which has been brought before the English and American public in Clark's Theological Library. This work is executed with an ability and a fullness which makes it useful for religious edification as well as for controversial study. The author seizes upon the grand Messianicidea, which is the basis of the whole Old Testament, and develops it in its spiritual as well as its critical relations. What was apparently purposeless and trivial in the old dispensation he thus vindicates; what was obscure he illuminates; and even Rationalism bowed with awe when it discovered the text it had spurned, invested by its new champion with moral grandeur, if not with divine glory. But he went beyond this. Adopting the same idea almost simultaneously brought out by Mr. Walker, of Ohio, in the "Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation," Hengstenberg developed the educational character of Judaism as a substantive branch of Internal Evidence. Men were to be gradually led to Christ by (1) the culture of Judaic symbolism, and (2) by the progressive development of the Messianic idea. At first the voice is heard in the desert but faintly. Jacob but inarticulately mutters the truth as he dies leaning