Изображения страниц

fluenced our political and intellectual life. We read the New Testament, not to find those forms of devotion, for there are few to be found; vor laws of church government, for there are hardly any; nor doctrines logically stated, for there is no attempt at logical precision. The New Testament is almost entirely occupied with two lives, the life of our Lord, and the life of the early church. Among the Epistles there are but two which seem, even at first sight, to be treatises for the future instead of letters for the time ;—the epistle to the Romans and the epistles to the Hebrews. But even these, when closely examined, appear, like the rest, to be no more than the fruit of the current history. That early church does not give us precepts, but examples.(p. 28.)

" The Bible is a history ; even the doctrinal parts of it are cast in an historical form, and are best studied by considering them records of the time at which they were, and as conveying to us the highest and greatest religious life of that time.(p. 44.)

What would be the Bible without its doctrines and its precepts ? Yet such passages as these amount to the assertion, that these are scarcely to be found therein ; for we can only regard the limitations expressed by “ technically called,” and “logically stated,” as loopholes for escape, when these assertions are pressed home. Can any candid reader study the parables and discourses of our Blessed Lord, as recorded by all the evangelists, and especially the detailed reports of St. John, and say that they contain no clear and distinct and definite statements of doctrine ? What, too, does an analysis of nearly every epistle of St. Paul present, but positive precepts of moral and religious duty, founded upon the deepest views of Christian doctrine? Take as an example the epistle to the Ephesians, in which the apostle lays his foundation in the eternal counsels of God, and raises thereon a superstructure of general and relative duties, clearly stated and precisely defined. It is unquestionably one of the strongest evidences of the divine wisdom which inspired and directed the Holy Scriptures, that books written by so many different persons, at such intervals of time, and under such variety of outward circumstances, appeal with force and freshness to each succeeding generation of God's servants. The believer, applying himself to God's book in God's way, in a humble and reverential spirit, finds that provision is made therein for the instruction, edification, and comfort of the church in every position and in every age. This point must be maintained; for let it once be allowed that the epistles were simply "letters for the time," and we know not how their sacred contents may be Wrested from us; the churches of Rome and Corinth and Ephesus would then have enjoyed the benefit of divine teaching, while we are thrown upon the teaching of a new school of prophets, who seem to claim an inspiration of their own; and as they allege that the Bible only conveys to us, in its different books, "the highest and greatest religious life of that time,” they will doubtless be prepared to supply us with other instruction better suited for the advancement and maturity of these our times.

In examining the way in which the Bible is treated of in this essay, we observe not only that its contents are depreciated, but that the method in which it is to be studied is stated in a rationalistic and dangerous way. It is remarkable in an essay which puts forth the noble sentiment—"the immediate work of our day is the study of the Bible”-that no reference whatever is made to the manner in which God has directed us to study the book which He has given to us. We have no intimation of any requisite for this study but the natural intellect, for in the selfsame page in which the study of the Bible is enforced, we read :

" At this time, in the maturity of mankind, the great lerer which moves the world is knowledge, the great force is intellect. Not only in the understanding of religious truth, but in all exercise of the intellectual powers, we have no right to stop short of any limit, but that which nature, i.e., the decree of the Creator, has imposed upon us.” (p. 48.)

Can nature," i.e., man's natural powers in their present fallen state, be described as the decree of the Creator ? Have they, without divine assistance, any adequate power for the spiritual understanding of religious truth? Is the pride of the natural intellect disposed to keep itself within those bounds which are to be observed by a fallen creature in approaching and dealing with the revelations of the great Creator ?" We need not go far to see the direction in which unsanctified human intellect leads in the study of the Bible; the study of the Bible, of which we are told that it is “the immediate work of our day,” is theoretical, not practical and experimental. The points proposed in this pursuit are such as these :-“the determination of the limits of what we mean by inspiration ;" "the determination of the different degrees of authority to be ascribed to the different books;" whether “geology prove

geology proves to us that we must not interpret the first chapters of Genesis literally;" whether “historical investigation shows that inspiration, however it may protect the doctrines, yet was not empowered to protect the narrative of the inspired writers from occasional inaccuracies ;" whether “ careful criticism proves that there have been occasionally interpolations and forgeries in that book.” If such be the spirit in which the Bible is to be studied, most fitly does this essay form the introduction to the volume ; taking up, as it were, this key-pote. One writer undermines the whole system of prophecy; another calls in question the reality of miracles; while a third disposes of the Mosaic narrative of the creation as “the speculation of some Hebrew Descartes or Newton." Each might have prefixed most appropriately to his contribution a motto from Dr. Temple's

essay. The unity of design in the book is marvellous, when we are told that these essayists wrote “in entire independence of each other;" and when we accept, as we are bound to do, the statement, that “the articles in this volume are presented to us without concert or comparison,” we see a melancholy but conclusive evidence of the extent to which the minds of many of those distinguished for a certain degree of intellectual power, and occupying the most important positions, are imbued with the same opinions, and are advancing in the same course of unrestrained and sceptical dealing with sacred things.

3. The present fallen and imperfect state of man is entirely overlooked. This inay perhaps be described as the fundamental error of Dr. Temple's essay. We have already had occasion to notice it, for it meets us everywhere. The ancients, on the ground probably of some tradition of the primeval innocence and happiness of Paradise, represented mankind as having descended from a golden age through one of silver and brass to that of iron. Horace, who was a keen observer of human nature in its different phases, thought that he could trace a progressive moral deterioration of mankind, in the well-known passage :

Damnosa quid non imminuit dies ?
Ætas parentum, pejor avis, tulit
Nos nequiores, mox daturos

Progeniem vitiosiorem.—Hor. Od. iï. 6. 335. Dr. Temple, on the other hand, asserts a perpetual progress, moral and religious, as well as intellectual and social :

“The discipline of manners, of temper, of thought, of feeling, is transmitted from generation to generation, and at each transmission there is an imperceptible but unfailing increase.” (p. 4.)

Hence we meet with the assertion, that"now Lamech's presumptuous comparison of himself with God is impossible; and the thought of building a tower high enough to escape God's wrath could enter no man's dreams.” (p. 7.) It is little more than fifty years since one of the most advanced and civilized nations of Europe defied the Most High God, by solemnly abjuring Christianity, and enthroning in His place one of the most infamous of human beings as

Goddess of Reason ;'* and we are led to con

* We give the following from the the apostate bishop of Paris. The conEpitome of Alison's Europe, p. 70, as the tagion of infidelity soon became universal. shortest summary of what took place in The churches were plundered; and a France in 1793, and which it is well to female named Momoro, of extraordinary keep before our minds :-“ Nothing now beauty, but loose character, was introremained to the revolutionists but to defy duced into the Convention, and afterHeaven itself; and accordingly (Nov. 7) wards publicly enthroned in Nôtre Daine Christianity was solemnly abjured, at the as the representative of the Goddess instance of the municipality, by Gobet, Reason! The Calendar had already been Vol. 59.-No. 273.

4 M

clude that such a spirit of blasphemous presumption, so far from being extinct, will be a marked characteristic of the last days. The Man of sin is described as one that “opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” The Tower of Babel is not likely to be built again materially; but as that act was the defiance of God's judgments, so they would seem to be of the same spirit who impugn and explain away God's purposes and dealings as set forth in His word, and make their natural powers of reason and conscience a tribunal to judge and decide upon the truth which God has revealed.

The fact is, Dr. Temple has been urged on too far by his theory. He has overlooked the truth that moral progress is wholly distinct from intellectual, and that religions progress in a still greater degree is distinct from both. That we are reaping the benefit of the stores of knowledge and the mental culture of former ages, none can deny; that the moral state of our own and many other Christian countries is altogether different to that of Sodom and Gomorrah, or to that of Rome as described by the satirists, is equally clear; but the condition of civilized and professedly Christian countries at this very day, such as Spain and Italy, proves that our exemp. tion from oppression and cruelty and the grosser forms of carnal lust is not to be attributed to an “unfailing increase” in the excellence of “manners and tempers" as they are transmitted from generation to generation, but to a totally different cause. The real source of our moral, and, to a great extent, of our intellectual, superiority, is an open and unrestricted Bible, which works directly upon the hearts and lives of many, and, beyond this, produces almost universally an indirect influence, the extent and ramifications of which it is impossible to arrive at.

Dr. Temple has more than once declared his assent and consent to our ninth article, which states that" original sin is the fault and corruption of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil.” If this language be correct, there can be no natural and inherent progress or improvement in successive generations. Every man, as boru into this world, is a partaker of the same sinful nature; and can only carry on his conflict against its evil tendencies, as aided by the Holy Spirit and directed by the word of God.

We will only notice one other feature of the natural progress

changed; the sabbath and the services colleges were suppressed: even the hosof religion were now abolished, and each pitals and public charities were not spared month divided into three decades. Mar- in the general havoc, and all their doriage was declared a civil contract, and mains were sold as national property." divorce legalized on any grounds, how- Such was France when it cast off God ever.frivolous; the natural consequence and the Bible in 1793. Was the spirit of which was an unexampled corruption of Lamech or the builders of Babel of morals. All academies, schools, and worse?



theory. It is a very striking one, and of itself goes far to disprove the supposition that as man proceeds we can have no more Lamechs and Babel-builders. Dr. Temple clearly intimates that one result of this progress is, that man so advances in wisdom and perfection that he becomes independent of God, and can no longer implicitly submit his mind and will and judgment to the Divine dealings. Such seems to be the evident bearing of the following passages :

Had our Lord come earlier, the world would not have been ready to receive Him, and the Gospel, instead of being the religion of the human race, would have been the religion of the Hebrews only. The other systems would have been too strong to be overthrown by the power of preaching." (p. 25.)

Now is it not matter of fact, that the world, so far from being ready to receive" our Lord, despised and rejected Him; and Jew and Gentile, hating each other in every other respect, combined in crucifying the Lord of glory? Is it not also matter of fact, that preaching depended for its success not on any inherent power of its own, but on the power of God which accompanied and wrought with it? The power of preaching was ridiculed by the wise men of the apostles' time as foolishness. Corinth, with all its refirrement, refused to submit to such an agency. “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness. But St. Paul delights in repeating, again and again, that the power of preaching was the power of God. Hence preaching prevailed not through the fitness of man to receive it, but by reason of the divine energy which manifested itself in it. Without that power, preaching would have been as ineffectual in the days of the apostles, as now; wherever it is exercised, the strongholds of sin and idolatry fall before it.

This independence of man is more clearly asserted in another place :

“ The one Example of all examples came in the 'fulness of time,' just when the world was fitted to feelthe power of His presence. Had His revelation been delayed till now, assuredly it would have been hard for us to recognise His divinity; for the faculty of faith has turned inwards, and cannot now accept any outer manifestations of the truth of God.(p. 24.)

What does Dr. Temple mean by the assertion that man“ not now accept any outer manifestations of the truth of God ?" Cannot acceptare strong, nay, presumptuous words to use of the acts of God. Is it that we are now wiser than God ? Is it that we have outgrown the age of dependance upon His superior power and wisdom ? Is it that we can choose and act for ourselves, and need no longer condescend to be taught and dealt with just as God sees fit? It appears to us that this state of mind realizes the condition of which our Lord speaks, when he says, “ When the Son of


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »