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ART. V.-The Mosaic Dispensation considered as Introductory to Christianity. Eight Sermons, preached before the University of Oxford, at the Bampton Lecture for the year 1856. By the Rev. EDWARD ARTHUR LITTON, M.A., late Fellow of Oriel College. Svo, pp. xix., 367. London: Hatchard. 1856.
THE subject of these Lectures is one which, on many accounts, claims attention from all students of sacred literature. The relation in which the documents of the ancient Jewish faith stand to those which unfold the principles of Christianity, presents to the inquirer one of the most curious questions in literary history; whilst the development of Christianity out of Judaism, by whatever process that may be conceived to have been accomplished, is a phenomenon in religious philosophy worthy of the most careful and thoughtful scrutiny. There can be no denying that the New Testament is the literary successor of the Old. Both have been produced among the same people, and both bear the marks of having been composed under the modifying influence of the same modes of thought, and the same national and religious sentiments. And yet how great and striking are the differences between them! Not only are they written in different languages -languages, indeed, so different that they stand separated from each other by one of the greatest intervals which comparative philology has established among its objects; the difference extends to style, composition, arrangement, illustration, and conception, in such a way and to such an extent as to indicate the action of some very potent influences upon the later writers to which the earlier were strangers. It must be admitted, surely, as an object of legitimate curiosity and interest, that these points of similarity and of difference in the literature of the same people, should be carefully examined and the causes of them, if possible, determined. There is, moreover, no denying that in some way Christianity has come out of Judaism, so that the latter actually was, and, if both are of divine authority, must have been designed to be preparatory to the former. Is it not worth while to inquire how this outgrowth of the later from the earlier has taken place, and how much of the earlier system has been superseded by the later, or whether both are not still constituent parts of one entire whole? Interesting, however, and important as are these inquiries, there are other aspects of this subject which present it to us with still more urgent claims on our serious attention. Is the religious system taught in the Old Testament essentially the same as that taught in the New? Did a pious Jew, following the
teachings of his own Scriptures, come thereby to stand on substantially the same ground in regard to spiritual interests as Christians are instructed by the teachings of the New Testament to occupy? Were the conceptions which men under the old covenant were led to entertain of sin and salvation, of holiness and depravity, of piety and ungodliness, the same in kind with those which are set forth by Christ and his Apostles? Messiah of the Old Testament the Christ of the New, and is there enough revealed concerning His person and work, as made known to us by the latter, to have enabled one, who possessed only the former, to exercise a real faith in Him as the Saviour of the world? These are questions which every person of reflection and earnestness will feel it to be of the utmost importance to have answered satisfactorily. There is something more at stake here than matters of literary history or philosophical judgment. If these questions cannot be answered in the affirmative, the interests of religion cannot but be seriously affected thereby. We should then be compelled to believe either that one or other of these two systems, Judaism and Christianity, was not of God, or that God had sanctioned at different times religions essentially diverse the one from the other. With neither conclusion could a solid faith in the divinity of our religion be retained. It would be preposterous to maintain that Christianity was first communicated to men by divine revelation, whilst it was assumed that Judaism, as we find it developed in the Old Testament, was a mere human invention; no sane man would gravely set himself to such a thesis, and nobody would listen to him if he did. But if both these systems came from God, and yet the one is essentially diverse from the other, then is God the author not of unity but of confusion; and in that case, where is religious certainty? If there be two divine religions, why may there not be twelve, or twenty? Why may not all religions be in a sense divine, and inspiration be nothing more, in any case, than what Mr. Parker pronounces it to be in every case, the mere stimulating influence of God on the natural faculties of the human mind?
The subject, then, which Mr. Litton has in this volume proposed to discuss, is one vitally affecting the claims of Christianity. And so the advocates of infidelity have not been slow to perceive; for it has ever been their aim to undermine the authority of the New Testament by destroying the pretensions of the Old. So it was with the early assailants of Christianity, Celsus and Porphyry; so it was with the English Deists in the early part of last century; and so it has been with the Rationalists more recently in Germany. The process is natural; the tactics are obvious and
Importance of the Subject.
easy. 'Let the Old Testament first be broken,' exclaims Stier, then is broken also the New; as we have seen in the progress of Rationalism into all unbelief: let the Christ, who ' has come as He was to come, be taken away, there is then no 'longer a Revelation, and no more a living God.'* It needs no gift of second sight to perceive that there are many manifest tokens that the course of attack which has been so often before pursued is about again, and perhaps with more vigour and skill than ever, to be resumed in this country. 'In fact,' as Mr. Litton observes, the note of preparation for an attack on this portion of God's word (the Old Testament) has already sounded.' Combatants of various kinds, and armed with weapons of different form and different quality, may be seen hastening to the field; among whom, alas! are to be descried some of whom we had hoped better things. The fight is, indeed, in some quarters, already commenced, and there is no prospect of warding off a general engagement. Be it so; we have no misgivings as to the ultimate result. Only, as Mr. Litton justly adds, 'the soldiers of the cross, especially those who, from their office, are placed in the van of the conflict, must look to their armour, offensive and defensive, and take up their position.'
With these convictions we rejoice to find this subject presented to the consideration of the more learned and scholarly portion of the public under the auspices of the Bampton Lecture. Such foundations are useful chiefly as they furnish the occasion and means of calling forth works that shall bear on the exposition of the present truth,' or the confutation of germinant or prevailing errors. When those who hold the appointment forget this, and, ignoring the actual pressing wants of the Christian commonwealth, content themselves with a mere reproduction of former reasonings, or a refutation of errors which no longer venture abroad, at least in their ancient habiliments, they not only do an idle thing, but they bring the whole scheme of such permanent endowments into disrepute. We do not want endowments simply to enable men, agere actum, to slay the slain, or to build up the tombs of former prophets. We want what shall call forth brave and stalwart warriors, men who shall be skilled to detect all the movements of the foe actually on the field, and prepared to meet him in whatever assault he may venture to make on the citadel of our common Christianity. It is no doubt a very pleasant thing for some country parson who has been dawdling over his books for a quarter of a century since he left the University, to be summoned to give the world the benefit of his researches from the pulpit of St. Mary's, Oxford, * The Words of the Lord Jesus, vol. i. p. 131. English Translation.
and with the prestige of a Bampton Lecturer; and the good man may very agreeably flatter himself that he is rendering an unspeakable service to the Christian cause by his lusty assaults on errors that live only in half-forgotten books.
Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis,
Let us have men in such posts, who have understanding of the times'-men who are versant with living forms of thought and speculation, who know what questions are chiefly pressing themselves on the attention of the community, who discern what dangers are especially threatening the cause of truth, and who can adjust their stores of book-learning so as to bring them to bear with effect on the present or imminent controversies in which the Church of Christ must take part. Such an one we are glad to hail in Mr. Litton. His former work on The Church of Christ, in its Idea, Attributes, and Ministry, proved him to be a man fully awake to existing tendencies of speculation and present emergencies of controversy, not less than a scholar well versed in the literature of the past; and though that work awakened in us expectations which the one before us has not altogether satisfied, we nevertheless receive it cordially, and commend it to our readers as containing a word in season,' both clearly and forcibly spoken.
The work consists, like all the Bampton Lectures, of eight discourses, to which is appended a body of notes, of less extent, in proportion to the text, than the example of most of Mr. Litton's recent predecessors in the Lectureship had taught us to expect. In the first Lecture the author, after some observations of an introductory nature, proceeds to consider the structure of the theocracy; to which subject the second Lecture also is devoted. The theocracy is contemplated by him under three aspects: first, as a means of perpetuating the sacred records, and repelling the noxious influences of heathenism; second, as a school of discipline intended to operate on the subject from without inwards; and third, as an earthly figure of the inner theocracy of the Spirit. In Lecture 3rd the author enters upon the consideration of the ceremonial law, and more especially those parts of it which relate to the priesthood and to sacrifices; his object being to explain the import of the Levitical institute in respect of these two, and to determine the efficacy of the atonements made by their means. In Lecture 4th he treats of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ; here his aim is to bring out the typical or predictive character of the ancient ceremonial, by showing that in the work of Christ is found the archetype, in accordance with which the Levitical ordinances of priesthood and
Merits of Mr. Litton's Book.
sacrifice were framed, as well as the fulfilment of all that they promised or adumbrated. Lecture 5th is devoted to the subject of prophetical revelation; here the author discusses first the prophetic office itself in relation to the theocracy, and then the substance of the prophetic revelation in its didactic and in its predictive matter. The title of Lecture 6th is, 'Judaism in its Interior aspects;' and in it the aim of the author is to determine to what extent truly religious and spiritual results were effected within the Jewish nation by the various appliances of discipline and instruction which it was their privilege to enjoy. The conclusion at which he arrives on the whole, in reference to the topics of this lecture is, that the religion of the Christian dif'fers in degree only, not in kind, from that of his predecessor ' under the old covenant; the same essential elements which, in 'a heightened form, corresponding to the fuller measure of know'ledge and of spiritual influence vouchsafed, are found in the 'former, belong also to the latter." Lecture 7th is on the Synagogue in its relation to the visible Church.' Mr. Litton considers the formation of the Church on the model of the synagogue as beyond doubt, and on this ground he argues to certain conclusions as to the officers of the Christian Church and its worship, which we much admire his courage in propounding to an Oxford audience, and his able advocacy of which we gladly accept, without pledging ourselves to an accordance with him in the ground on which he has seen meet in this lecture to rest his arguments. Lecture 8th is entitled, "Prevalent Errors on the Relation of the Law to the Gospel,' and is principally occupied in strictures on antinomianism, or the system which would sever the connexion between the law and the gospel, and on the Romanist tendency to reconstruct the gospel on the principles of the legal economy.
Having by this analysis of the contents of these lectures placed before our readers Mr. Litton's book, in such a way as to give them some idea of what they may find in it, if they should feel inclined to consult it, we must now take the liberty of diverging into a more general field of disquisition, in which, without losing sight of our author, we shall occupy ourselves rather with important questions belonging to his subject than with detailed criticisms of his book. Before, however, we dismiss the latter from our critical bar, let us say that on all the topics he has undertaken to discuss Mr. Litton has written ably, perspicuously, and with admirable candour, not less than with sincerity and earnestness. It is refreshing, in these days of mystic utterances and cloudy thinkings, to encounter a writer on theological questions, who, like Mr. Litton, strives to realise distinctly his